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Brazil’s Presidential Race Heats Up

As Bolsonaro lags behind in polls, he is scrambling to rally his base and push his far-right platform.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro celebrates the country’s 200th Independence Day anniversary.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro celebrates the country’s 200th Independence Day anniversary.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures at the crowd during a parade to celebrate Brazil’s 200th Independence Day anniversary in Brasília, Brazil, on Sept. 7. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s Independence Day rallies, secrets from Mar-a-Lago, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grain deal threats.

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Bolsonaro Rallies Support on Independence Day

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s Independence Day rallies, secrets from Mar-a-Lago, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grain deal threats.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Bolsonaro Rallies Support on Independence Day

Tens of thousands of Brazilians rallied to support President Jair Bolsonaro during Brazil’s bicentennial celebrations on Wednesday, as the country’s presidential race heats up and Bolsonaro scrambles to galvanize support.

Military planes flew above cities and tanks cruised through streets to mark the 200th anniversary of Brazils independence from Portugal. But experts say Bolsonaro blurred the lines between national celebrations and his campaign events, taking advantage of the day to rally his devoted base and push his far-right nationalist platform.

He “reinforc[ed] his narratives that the polls are fake; the news [is] fake; the electronic voting machines cant be trusted—and therefore, his base needs to stay mobilized,” said Catherine Osborn, a Brazil-based journalist and writer of FP’s Latin America Brief newsletter.

As Brazil’s October elections loom, the two front-runners are Bolsonaro and former leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who left office in 2010 with a record 87 percent approval rating. Bolsonaro has accused his predecessor of extreme corruption despite being mired in his own graft scandals, whereas Lula has in turn attacked him for “destroying” the country. (Lula was previously jailed over corruption convictions, although they were later annulled over procedural issues, clearing the way for his candidacy now.)

But it is Lula who holds a clear lead in polls, as Bolsonaro’s botched pandemic response, assault on Indigenous and LGBTQ+ rights, and sexist remarks against women—among whom he is very unpopular—weigh against him. While Bolsonaro deepened his ties with the military, gun ownership soared during his tenure.

“Bolsonaro is lagging behind Lula because voters dislike him more than they dislike Lula,” Osborn said. “It’s actually going to be an election between who has more rejection instead of who has more positive opinions of them.”

For many Brazilians, Lula also represents a period of economic promise and well-being—one the public is desperate to return to. “There’s a nostalgia for the past,” said James Green, a professor of Brazilian history at Brown University. “The time when Lula was in power between 2003 and 2010 were years of tremendous prosperity. The economy was booming. Things were going well.”

As Bolsonaro falls behind in the polls, he’s made unfounded claims that Brazil’s voting systems are vulnerable to fraud, in what experts fear is an effort to prepare to contest election results and even attempt to launch a coup. These efforts as well as his threatening rhetoric and misinformation will likely profoundly shape Brazilian society.

“Even if there is not a coup d’état in the strict sense of the word, Bolsonaro is sowing the ingredients of a risky, explosive political situation among civilians for a long time,” Osborn said. “That doesnt go away very easily.”


What We’re Following Today

Secrets from Mar-a-Lago. The FBI has discovered files detailing another country’s nuclear capabilities stashed at former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, the Washington Post reported. Former U.S. intelligence officials warned that Trump’s decision to take the top-secret documents to his residence could have enormous security implications.

“I’m sure Mar-a-Lago was being targeted by Russian intelligence and other intelligence services over the course of the last 18 or 20 months,” John Brennan, former director of the CIA, told MSNBC. “If they were able to get individuals into that facility and access those rooms where those documents were and made copies of those documents, that’s what they would do.” 

Putin’s grain deal threats. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to change the terms in a grain agreement that had allowed the commodity to leave Ukrainian ports while referring to the deal as “a swindle.”

“What we see is a brazen deception a deception by the international community of our partners in Africa and other countries that are in dire need of food,” he said. “Its just a scam.” 


Keep an Eye On

Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran has continued to build up its uranium supply while expressing concerns over Tehrans engagement. “The Director General is increasingly concerned that Iran has not engaged with the Agency on the outstanding safeguards issues during this reporting period and, therefore, that there has been no progress towards resolving them,” one report said.

Haiti’s protests. Protests rocked Haiti on Wednesday as thousands of people took to the streets over rising crime, surging costs of living, and demands of a new prime minister. In a statement released on Tuesday, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s office said it acknowledged “the seriousness of the situation” and was working to enact new measures.


Tuesday’s Most Read

How U.S. Grand Strategy Is Changed by Ukraine by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Angela Stent, Stephen M. Walt, C. Raja Mohan, Robin Niblett, Liana Fix, and Edward Alden

Why Trumpism Will Endure by Michael Hirsh

The Last String of Russian Greatness Is About to Snap by Elisabeth Braw


Odds and Ends

The Ukrainian public has been captivated by a mischievous chimpanzee named Chichi’s zoo escape—and her touching return.

After escaping the Kharkiv Zoo, Chichi was only coaxed into returning after zookeepers dressed her in a yellow raincoat and gave her a hug. They then wheeled her back to the zoo on a bicycle in video footage that quickly circulated on social media.

“It wasn’t difficult to convince her. All thats needed is negotiations,” Victoria Kozyreva, the zookeeper who talked Chichi into going back, told NBC News. “There was rain. I talked to her and invited with my jacket, helped to put it on and gave her a hug.”

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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