Unemployment and inflation have risen. He has been operating without a political party for two years. And Brazil’s Supreme Court and Congress are closing in on investigations into him, his sons and his allies.

Late last month, a Brazil congressional panel recommended that President Bolsonaro be charged with “crimes against humanity,” asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus tear through Brazil in a bid for herd immunity. The panel blamed his administration for more than 100,000 deaths.

Minutes after the panel voted, Mr. Trump issued his endorsement. “Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them,” he said in a statement. “He is a great president and will never let the people of his great country down!”

instant.

“They say he’s the Donald Trump of South America,” Mr. Trump said in 2019. “I like him.”

To many others, Mr. Bolsonaro was alarming. As a congressman and candidate, he had waxed poetic about Brazil’s military dictatorship, which tortured its political rivals. He said he would be incapable of loving a gay son. And he said a rival congresswoman was too ugly to be raped.

Three months into his term, President Bolsonaro went to Washington. At his welcome dinner, the Brazilian embassy sat him next to Mr. Bannon. At the White House later, Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro made deals that would allow the Brazilian government to spend more with the U.S. defense industry and American companies to launch rockets from Brazil.

announced Eduardo Bolsonaro would represent South America in The Movement, a right-wing, nationalist group that Mr. Bannon envisioned taking over the Western world. In the news release, Eduardo Bolsonaro said they would “reclaim sovereignty from progressive globalist elitist forces.”

pacts to increase commerce. American investors plowed billions of dollars into Brazilian companies. And Brazil spent more on American imports, including fuel, plastics and aircraft.

Now a new class of companies is salivating over Brazil: conservative social networks.

Gettr and Parler, two Twitter clones, have grown rapidly in Brazil by promising a hands-off approach to people who believe Silicon Valley is censoring conservative voices. One of their most high-profile recruits is President Bolsonaro.

partly funded by Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire who is close with Mr. Bannon. (When Mr. Bannon was arrested on fraud charges, he was on Mr. Guo’s yacht.) Parler is funded by Rebekah Mercer, the American conservative megadonor who was Mr. Bannon’s previous benefactor.

Companies like Gettr and Parler could prove critical to President Bolsonaro. Like Mr. Trump, he built his political movement with social media. But now Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are more aggressively policing hate speech and misinformation. They blocked Mr. Trump and have started cracking down on President Bolsonaro. Last month, YouTube suspended his channel for a week after he falsely suggested coronavirus vaccines could cause AIDS.

In response, President Bolsonaro has tried to ban the companies from removing certain posts and accounts, but his policy was overturned. Now he has been directing his supporters to follow him elsewhere, including on Gettr, Parler and Telegram, a messaging app based in Dubai.

He will likely soon have another option. Last month, Mr. Trump announced he was starting his own social network. The company financing his new venture is partly led by Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Bragança, a Brazilian congressman and Bolsonaro ally.

said the rioters’ efforts were weak. “If it were organized, they would have taken the Capitol and made demands,” he said.

The day after the riot, President Bolsonaro warned that Brazil was “going to have a worse problem” if it didn’t change its own electoral systems, which rely on voting machines without paper backups. (Last week, he suddenly changed his tune after announcing that he would have Brazil’s armed forces monitor the election.)

Diego Aranha, a Brazilian computer scientist who studies the country’s election systems, said that Brazil’s system does make elections more vulnerable to attacks — but that there has been no evidence of fraud.

“Bolsonaro turned a technical point into a political weapon,” he said.

President Bolsonaro’s American allies have helped spread his claims.

At the CPAC in Brazil, Donald Trump Jr. told the audience that if they didn’t think the Chinese were aiming to undermine their election, “you haven’t been watching.” Mr. Bannon has called President Bolsonaro’s likely opponent, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a “transnational, Marxist criminal” and “the most dangerous leftist in the world.” Mr. da Silva served 18 months in prison but his corruption charges were later tossed out by a Supreme Court justice.

Eduardo Bolsonaro’s slide show detailing claims of Brazilian voter fraud, delivered in South Dakota, was broadcast by One America News, a conservative cable network that reaches 35 million U.S. households. It was also translated into Portuguese and viewed nearly 600,000 times on YouTube and Facebook.

protest his enemies in the Supreme Court and on the left.

The weekend before, just down the road from the presidential palace, Mr. Bolsonaro’s closest allies gathered at CPAC. Eduardo Bolsonaro and the American Conservative Union, the Republican lobbying group that runs CPAC, organized the event. Eduardo Bolsonaro’s political committee mostly financed it. Tickets sold out.

a fiery speech. Then he flew to São Paulo, where he used Mr. Miller’s detainment as evidence of judicial overreach. He told the crowd he would no longer recognize decisions from a Supreme Court judge.

He then turned to the election.

“We have three alternatives for me: Prison, death or victory,” he said. “Tell the bastards I’ll never be arrested.”

Leonardo Coelho and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

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Brazil’s Bid to Outsource Amazon Conservation Finds Few Takers

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Facing strong international condemnation over the destruction of the Amazon, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government came up with a strategy: It offered companies the chance to “adopt” a patch of rainforest.

But the plan — which invites companies to contribute money to help preserve the forest — has been marred by disorganization and met with skepticism by critics, who see it as an effort to “green wash” the Bolsonaro administration’s poor record on the environment.

It also hasn’t found many takers.

The program was announced in February, as the Biden administration made clear that it expected Brazil to reverse some of the forest loss and dismantling of environmental protections that marked Mr. Bolsonaro’s first two years in office.

the Adopt-a-Park program would accomplish two of the Bolsonaro administration’s goals: redeem Brazil’s tarnished environmental image, which industry leaders have feared could shut them out of international markets, and outsource the costs of conservation at a time of tightening budgets.

“Many of these companies, investment funds that signed letters demonstrating their concern about the Amazon,” said Ricardo Salles, the minister of the environment, “now have in Adopt a Park a concrete, very simple and efficient possibility of transforming their statements into action.”

The government offered 132 federal reserves in the Amazon for sponsorship. So far, only three foreign companies — the grocery chain Carrefour, Coca-Cola and Heineken — and five Brazilian corporations have enrolled. Their donations total just over $1 million — a tiny fraction of the $600 million that Mr. Salles aspires to raise.

Protected Areas of the Amazon program has raised tens of millions of dollars from governments and companies for protected areas in the Amazon.

Through the Adopt-a-Park program, sponsoring companies pay at least $9.5 per hectare of the reserve’s area per year. To sponsor the biggest park costs almost $35 million annually, while the smallest go for $23,000 a year.

Once sponsorship deals are finalized, companies donate goods and services — which could include vehicles or a fire brigade — to the Chico Mendes Institute office in each reserve.

July to share responsibility for protecting the Amazon with nongovernment actors. As protests over fires in the Amazon rainforest intensified, he challenged the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the government’s most prominent critics, to sponsor a reserve.

“Are you going to put your money where your mouth is?” Mr. Salles wrote on Twitter in September.

Beyond proposing the park-adoption program before the climate change summit convened by the Biden administration last month, Brazil’s government seems to have done little to improve its environmental policies.

At the summit, Mr. Bolsonaro vowed to allocate more money to environmental protection agencies. But the very next day the government did the opposite, signing into law a budget that further slashed funding for the agencies.

And federal lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for companies to get environmental permits for new farming, mining and infrastructure ventures.

“Is receiving donations as they are proposing going to compensate for all that?” asked Natalie Unterstell, a climate policy expert who has been tracking the program. “No. It’s a palliative measure.”

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Ravaged by Covid, Brazil Faces a Hunger Epidemic

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rail-thin teenagers hold placards at traffic stops with the word for hunger — fome — in large print. Children, many of whom have been out of school for over a year, beg for food outside supermarkets and restaurants. Entire families huddle in flimsy encampments on sidewalks, asking for baby formula, crackers, anything.

A year into the pandemic, millions of Brazilians are going hungry.

The scenes, which have proliferated in the last months on Brazil’s streets, are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed.

From the start of the outbreak, Brazil’s president has been skeptical of the disease’s impact, and scorned the guidance of health experts, arguing that the economic damage wrought by the lockdowns, business closures and mobility restrictions they recommended would be a bigger threat than the pandemic to the country’s weak economy.

That trade-off led to one of the world’s highest death tolls, but also foundered in its goal — to keep the country afloat.

ripping through the social fabric, setting wrenching records, while the worsening health crisis pushes businesses into bankruptcy, killing jobs and further hampering an economy that has grown little or not at all for more than six years.

a study of privation during the pandemic by a network of Brazilian researchers focused on the issue.

Brazil’s Institute of Geography and Statistics.

At first the family managed by spending their government assistance carefully, she said, but this year, once the payments were cut, they struggled.

“There is no work,” she said. “And the bills keep coming.”

Mr. Bolsonaro called those measures “extreme” and warned that they would result in malnutrition.

The president also dismissed the threat of the virus, sowed doubts about vaccines, which his government has been slow to procure, and often encouraged crowds of supporters at political events.

As a second wave of cases this year led to the collapse of the health care system in several cities, local officials again imposed a raft of strict measures — and found themselves at war with Mr. Bolsonaro.

“People have to have freedom, the right to work,” he said last month, calling the new quarantine measures imposed by local governments tantamount to living in a “dictatorship.”

Early this month, as the daily death toll from the virus sometimes surpassed 4,000, Mr. Bolsonaro acknowledged the severity of the humanitarian crisis facing his country. But he took no responsibility and instead faulted local officials.

“Brazil is at the limit,” he said, arguing that the blame lay with “whoever closed everything.”

But economists said that the argument that restrictions intended to control the virus would worsen Brazil’s economic downturn was “a false dilemma.”

In an open letter addressed to Brazilian authorities in late March, more than 1,500 economists and businesspeople asked the government to impose stricter measures, including lockdown.

wrote.

Laura Carvalho, an economist, published a study showing that restrictions can have a negative short-term impact on a country’s financial health, but that, in the long run, it would have been a better strategy.

“If Bolsonaro had carried out lockdown measures, we would have moved earlier from the economic crisis,” said Ms. Carvalho, a professor at the University of São Paulo.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s approach had a broadly destabilizing effect, said Thomas Conti, lecturer at Insper, a business school.

“The Brazilian real was the most devalued currency among all developing countries,” Mr. Conti said. “We are at an alarming level of unemployment, there is no predictability to the future of the country, budget rules are being violated, and inflation grows nonstop.”

campaign called Tem Gente Com Fome, or People are Going Hungry, with the aim of raising money from companies and individuals to get food baskets to needy people across the country.

Mr. Belchior, one of the founders, said the campaign was named after a poem by the writer and artist Solano Trindade. It describes scenes of misery viewed as a train in Rio de Janeiro makes its way across poor neighborhoods where the state has been all but absent for decades.

“Families are increasingly pleading for earlier food deliveries,” said Mr. Belchior. “And they’re depending more on community actions than the government.”

Carine Lopes, 32, the president of a community ballet school in Manguinhos, a low-income, working-class district of Rio de Janeiro, has responded to the crisis by turning her organization into an impromptu relief center.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the price of basic products rose dramatically at nearby stores, she said. The cost of cooking oil more than tripled. A kilogram of rice goes for twice as much. As meat became increasingly prohibitive, Sunday outdoor cookouts became a rarity in the neighborhood.

Long used to fielding calls from parents who desperately wanted a slot for their children at the ballet school, Ms. Lopes has gotten used to a very different appeal. Old acquaintances and strangers text her daily asking about the food baskets the ballet school has been distributing weekly.

“These moms and dads are only thinking about basic things now,” she said. “They call and say: ‘I’m unemployed. I don’t have anything else to eat this week. Is there anything you can give us?’”

When the virus finally recedes, the poorest families will have the hardest time bouncing back, she said.

Ms. Lopes despairs thinking of students who have been unable to tune in to online classes in households that have no internet connection, or where the only device with a screen belongs to a working parent.

“No one will be able to compete for a scholarship with a middle-class student who managed to keep up with classes using their good internet and their tablets,” she said. “Inequality is being exacerbated.”

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Bolsonaro Seeks International Funding for Amazon Protection

This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

RIO DE JANEIRO — As the Biden administration rallies the international community to curb global warming in a climate change summit this week, Brazil is pledging to play a critical role, going as far as promising to end illegal deforestation by 2030.

There’s a catch: Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, wants the international community to pledge billions of dollars to pay for the conservation initiatives.

And donors are reluctant to provide the money, since Brazil under the Bolsonaro administration has been busy doing the opposite of conservation, gutting the country’s environmental protection system, undermining Indigenous rights and championing industries driving the destruction of the rainforest.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s watch, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, by far the largest in the world, has risen to the highest level in over a decade. The destruction, which has been driven by loggers clearing land for cattle grazing and for illegal mining operations, sparked global outrage in 2019 as huge wildfires raged for weeks.

European Union, Norway and others in warning that its worsening reputation hampers the country’s economic potential.

that Norway and Germany froze in 2019 after Mr. Bolsonaro’s government criticized some of the projects and dismantled safeguards to ensure the money was used effectively.

“The shamelessness of the government to ask for resources abroad is striking,” Ms. Araújo said. “Why won’t he use the money that’s there?”

Environmental and Indigenous organizations have expressed deep skepticism about Mr. Bolsonaro’s professed willingness to fight deforestation and they have warned international donors to refrain from giving the Brazilian government money they fear could be used to undermine environmental protection.

In recent weeks, environmentalists have raised the alarm, and celebrities — including the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso and the American actor Leonardo DiCaprio — signed a letter that conveyed “profound concern” about the talks.

There is no sign that the Biden administration is considering offering to fund deforestation efforts on a significant scale, which would require support from Congress.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said last week that the United States does not expect to announce a bilateral agreement with Brazil at this week’s climate summit.

“We do want to see a clear commitment to ending illegal deforestation, tangible steps to increase effective enforcement of illegal deforestation, and a political signal that illegal deforestation and encroachment will not be tolerated,” she told reporters last week.

an analysis by Climate Observatory.

After the country’s vice president, Hamilton Mourão, announced the government’s first target for deforestation reduction earlier this month, experts pointed out that reaching the goal would leave Brazil by the end of 2022 with a level of deforestation 16 percent higher than the one Mr. Bolsonaro inherited in 2019.

The Bolsonaro administration is backing a bill that would give land grabbers amnesty, a move that would open up a swath of the Amazon at least the size of France to largely unregulated development. Another initiative it is pressing in Congress would make it easier for companies to get environmental licenses and would pave the way for legal mining operations in Indigenous territories.

And there is deep distrust toward Mr. Salles among environmentalists and public servants in the field. A senior federal police official in the Amazon recently accused the minister of obstructing a law enforcement operation against illegal loggers.

Private sector leaders are among the most concerned over the government’s record on the environment. Though China buys almost a third of Brazil’s exports, Americans are crucial investors in companies whose supply chains are vulnerable to deforestation.

In an open letter, the heads of dozens of major Brazilian companies, including the meatpacker JBS and the Itaú bank, urged the government to set more ambitious carbon emission reduction targets.

“Any work that reduces illegal deforestation benefits the private sector,” said Marcello Brito, the president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association, which was among the signatories. “What I fear is a boycott by the market.”

That’s a prospect Mr. Chapman, the American ambassador, has underscored.

“If things don’t go well, it’s not about what happens with the American government, it’s about what happens with the world,” he said. “Many companies in the United States now, their shareholders are demanding an answer.”

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As Coronavirus and Economic Woes Ravage Brazil, Bolsonaro Improvises and Confounds

RIO DE JANEIRO — He has sneered at the Covid-19 pandemic, even as it led Brazil’s health care system to collapse. He has ridiculed opposition lawmakers, who are gunning for his impeachment.

His main rival is back in the political arena, threatening a re-election bid.

And this week he ordered a sweeping cabinet shake-up and removed the heads of the armed forces — a strong base of support — with no public explanation.

Even for a polarizing leader who often appears to act on gut instinct, the recent moves by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have confounded and unnerved many in Latin America’s largest country, where the coronavirus is killing people at a record rate.

Brazilian lawmakers on Wednesday presented a new initiative to impeach Mr. Bolsonaro, calling his dismissal of the military commanders the day before a dangerous and destabilizing action.

forcing out of the military commanders, which followed the replacement of roughly one-third of his cabinet, created consternation and bewilderment in political circles. There were no clear signs that the personnel changes represent a strategic shift for the government as it navigates the deadliest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 317,000 Brazilians.

With hospitals overloaded, a slow vaccination campaign and growing unemployment, Mr. Bolsonaro is under enormous pressure to make bold policy changes. But politicians and analysts said they were struggling to make sense of his latest moves.

the 11.6 percent jobless rate Mr. Bolsonaro inherited when he took office in January 2019. A formidable political adversary, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, re-emerged on the political stage this month after the courts vacated corruption cases against him, which restored his right to run for office.

The president confronts daunting economic obstacles. While he was able to retain considerable political support last year by spending billions on a pandemic welfare program, continuing to keep the politically popular assistance aid flowing, while meeting other fiscal obligations, would burst spending caps codified by law.

At the same time, Brazil’s Covid-19 crisis has turned the country into an international pariah. Experts fear that the spread of the country’s more-contagious strain will accelerate across the globe, and that as transmission grows, new variants may yet emerge.

recorded 3,780 daily deaths, a record, Mr. Bolsonaro renewed his attacks on lockdowns and other rigid measures that health experts have said are necessary to arrest the spread of the virus.

issued a joint statement warning that three decades after the end of the dictatorship, “Brazil’s democracy is threatened.”

The statement added: “There is no shortage of examples of the way authoritarianism can emerge from the shadows if societies are careless and fail to speak up in defense of democratic values.”

The new defense minister, Walter Souza Braga Netto, a former Army general who left active duty last year, rattled critics of the government by issuing a statement about the anniversary of the 1964 coup — the anniversary was Wednesday — saying the date should be “celebrated.”

But later in the day, he called today’s armed forces a bedrock of Brazil’s democracy. “On this historic day, I reaffirm that the most valuable asset of a nation is the preservation of democracy and the freedom of its people,” he said during a ceremony in which the three new chiefs of the armed forces were announced.

Lawmakers have called for Mr. Bolsonaro’s impeachment dozens of times since last year, but they have failed to garner broad support. Arthur Lira, the new leader of the House of Representatives, last week put the president on notice as he decried the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Mr. Lira warned that the “political remedies in Congress are well known and all of them are bitter.” Some, he added in a clear reference to impeachment, are “fatal.”

A group of lawmakers last week warned Mr. Bolsonaro in a letter that the 2021 budget, as currently drafted, would exceed fiscal limits established in 2016 to rein in public spending and attract foreign investment. Exceeding the cap, which economists say appears all but inevitable now, would open a new avenue for the president’s impeachment.

“We’re on a path of fiscal irresponsibility and that creates a serious legal problem,” said Zeina Latif, an economist.

But analysts and leading lawmakers say there is little appetite for a new impeachment, given how the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 proved so politically disruptive and divisive.

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said powerful blocks of lawmakers are likely to use Mr. Bolsonaro’s isolation to extract concessions.

“It’s in their best interest to leave him in office and get the things they always wanted,” she said. She predicted the president’s popularity would fall ahead of next year’s presidential election. “Next year they wash their hands of Bolsonaro.”

Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro, and Letícia Casado from Brasília.

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As Virus and Economic Woes Ravage Brazil, Bolsonaro Improvises and Confounds

RIO DE JANEIRO — He has sneered at the Covid-19 pandemic, even as it led Brazil’s health care system to collapse. He has ridiculed opposition lawmakers, who are gunning for his impeachment.

His main rival is back in the political arena, threatening a re-election bid.

And this week he ordered a sweeping cabinet shake-up and removed the heads of the armed forces — a strong base of support — with no public explanation.

Even for a polarizing leader who often appears to act on gut instinct, the recent moves by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have confounded and unnerved many in Latin America’s largest country, where the coronavirus is killing people at a record rate.

Brazilian lawmakers on Wednesday presented a new initiative to impeach Mr. Bolsonaro, calling his dismissal of the military commanders the day before a dangerous and destabilizing action.

forcing out of the military commanders, which followed the replacement of roughly one-third of his cabinet, created consternation and bewilderment in political circles. There were no clear signs that the personnel changes represent a strategic shift for the government as it navigates the deadliest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 317,000 Brazilians.

With hospitals overloaded, a slow vaccination campaign and growing unemployment, Mr. Bolsonaro is under enormous pressure to make bold policy changes. But politicians and analysts said they were struggling to make sense of his latest moves.

the 11.6 percent jobless rate Mr. Bolsonaro inherited when he took office in January 2019. A formidable political adversary, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, re-emerged on the political stage this month after the courts vacated corruption cases against him, which restored his right to run for office.

The president confronts daunting economic obstacles. While he was able to retain considerable political support last year by spending billions on a pandemic welfare program, continuing to keep the politically popular assistance aid flowing, while meeting other fiscal obligations, would burst spending caps codified by law.

At the same time, Brazil’s Covid-19 crisis has turned the country into an international pariah. Experts fear that the spread of the country’s more-contagious strain will accelerate across the globe, and that as transmission grows, new variants may yet emerge.

recorded 3,780 daily deaths, a record, Mr. Bolsonaro renewed his attacks on lockdowns and other rigid measures that health experts have said are necessary to arrest the spread of the virus.

issued a joint statement warning that three decades after the end of the dictatorship, “Brazil’s democracy is threatened.”

The statement added: “There is no shortage of examples of the way authoritarianism can emerge from the shadows if societies are careless and fail to speak up in defense of democratic values.”

The new defense minister, Walter Souza Braga Netto, a former Army general who left active duty last year, rattled critics of the government by issuing a statement about the anniversary of the 1964 coup — the anniversary was Wednesday — saying the date should be “celebrated.”

But later in the day, he called today’s armed forces a bedrock of Brazil’s democracy. “On this historic day, I reaffirm that the most valuable asset of a nation is the preservation of democracy and the freedom of its people,” he said during a ceremony in which the three new chiefs of the armed forces were announced.

Lawmakers have called for Mr. Bolsonaro’s impeachment dozens of times since last year, but they have failed to garner broad support. Arthur Lira, the new leader of the House of Representatives, last week put the president on notice as he decried the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Mr. Lira warned that the “political remedies in Congress are well known and all of them are bitter.” Some, he added in a clear reference to impeachment, are “fatal.”

A group of lawmakers last week warned Mr. Bolsonaro in a letter that the 2021 budget, as currently drafted, would exceed fiscal limits established in 2016 to rein in public spending and attract foreign investment. Exceeding the cap, which economists say appears all but inevitable now, would open a new avenue for the president’s impeachment.

“We’re on a path of fiscal irresponsibility and that creates a serious legal problem,” said Zeina Latif, an economist.

But analysts and leading lawmakers say there is little appetite for a new impeachment, given how the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 proved so politically disruptive and divisive.

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said powerful blocks of lawmakers are likely to use Mr. Bolsonaro’s isolation to extract concessions.

“It’s in their best interest to leave him in office and get the things they always wanted,” she said. She predicted the president’s popularity would fall ahead of next year’s presidential election. “Next year they wash their hands of Bolsonaro.”

Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro, and Letícia Casado from Brasília.

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Brazil’s Armed Forces Chiefs Resign Abruptly Amid Cabinet Shake-Up

RIO DE JANEIRO — The three commanders of Brazil’s Armed Forces resigned jointly on Tuesday, a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fired his defense minister as part of a big cabinet shake-up.

The departures of the military leaders, which followed the unexpected replacement on Monday of five other cabinet members fueled rampant speculation in the capital about a breakdown in the relationship between the president and the country’s military, which has played a central role in the Bolsonaro administration.

“The dismissal of the heads of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force after the sudden shift in leadership at the defense ministry is unprecedented in the era since democracy was restored,” Representative Rodrigo de Castro said in a statement. “It reveals a real crisis between the military and the government.”

The political turbulence in Brasília comes as the government faces withering criticism at home and abroad for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, including calls for Mr. Bolsonaro’s impeachment. A surge in infections has overwhelmed hospitals across the country, leaving patients to die waiting for a hospital bed.

has given the military a leading role in politics and policymaking in Brazil, entrusting its leaders with the most power they have had since the country’s military dictatorship ended three decades ago. He picked a retired Army general as a running mate and appointed top military leaders for scores of leadership roles that are normally occupied by civilians.

But military leaders have failed at core missions Mr. Bolsonaro gave them, including overseeing the response to the pandemic and reining in deforestation in the Amazon.

The president’s relationship with his vice president, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourão, and his departing defense minister, Gen. Fernando Azevedo e Silva, grew tense in recent weeks as the country’s coronavirus crisis worsened.

Last week the president replaced his health minister, Eduardo Pazuello, an active duty general who failed to lead a comprehensive response to the pandemic and to negotiate the purchase of a sufficient amount of Covid-19 vaccine.

The Brazilian government’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 313,000 Brazilians, has been cavalier and chaotic.

the principal purveyor of the vaccines currently available to Brazil.

Lawmakers criticized the departing top diplomat for the country’s failure to secure access to a large number of Covid-19 vaccines.

Mr. Bolsonaro also replaced his justice minister, his chief of staff and the lawyer who represents the executive branch in cases before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Bolsonaro did not provide an explanation for these changes and analysts were struggling on Tuesday to make sense of their implications.

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A Collapse Foretold: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbreak Overwhelmed Hospitals

The virus has killed more than 300,000 people in Brazil, its spread aided by a highly contagious variant, political infighting and distrust of science.


PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The patients began arriving at hospitals in Porto Alegre far sicker and younger than before. Funeral homes were experiencing a steady uptick in business, while exhausted doctors and nurses pleaded in February for a lockdown to save lives.

But Sebastião Melo, Porto Alegre’s mayor, argued there was a greater imperative.

“Put your life on the line so that we can save the economy,” Mr. Melo appealed to his constituents in late February.

Now Porto Alegre, a prosperous city in southern Brazil, is at the heart of an stunning breakdown of the country’s health care system — a crisis foretold.

More than a year into the pandemic, deaths in Brazil are at their peak and highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are sweeping the nation, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. The country, whose leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has played down the threat of the virus, is now reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country in the world.

125 Brazilians succumbing to the disease every hour. Health officials in public and private hospitals were scrambling to expand critical care units, stock up on dwindling supplies of oxygen and procure scarce intubation sedatives that are being sold at an exponential markup.

Intensive care units in Brasília, the capital, and 16 of Brazil’s 26 states report dire shortages of available beds, with capacity below 10 percent, and many are experiencing rising contagion (when 90 percent of such beds are full the situation is considered dire.)

a model for other developing nations, with a reputation for advancing agile and creative solutions to medical crises, including a surge in H.I.V. infections and the outbreak of Zika.

Mr. Melo, who campaigned last year on a promise to lift all pandemic restrictions in the city, said a lockdown would cause people to starve.

celebrated setbacks in clinical trials for CoronaVac, the Chinese-made vaccine that Brazil came to largely rely on, and joked that pharmaceutical companies would not be held responsible if people who got newly developed vaccines turned into alligators.

“The government initially dismissed the threat of the pandemic, then the need for preventive measures, and then goes against science by promoting miracle cures,” said Natália Pasternak, a microbiologist in São Paulo. “That confuses the population, which means people felt safe going out in the street.”

Terezinha Backes, a 63-year-old retired shoemaker living in a municipality on the outskirts of Porto Alegre, had been exceedingly careful over the past year, venturing out only when necessary, said her nephew, Henrique Machado.

But her 44-year-old son, a security guard tasked with taking the temperature of people entering a medical facility, appears to have brought the virus home early this month.

Ms. Backes, who had been in good health, was taken to a hospital on March 13 after she began having trouble breathing. With no beds to spare, she was treated with oxygen and an IV in the hallway of an overflowing wing. She died three days later.

“My aunt was not given the right to fight for her life,” said Mr. Machado, 29, a pharmacist. “She was left in a hallway.”

anti-parasite drug ivermectin as a preventive measure. The drug is part of the so-called Covid kit of drugs, which also includes the antibiotic azithromycin and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. Mr. Bolsonaro’s health ministry has endorsed their use.

Leading medical experts in Brazil, the United States and Europe have said those drugs are not effective to treat Covid-19 and some can have serious side effects, including kidney failure.

“Lies,” Mr. Monteiro, 63, said about the scientific consensus on the Covid kit. “There are so many lies and myths.”

He said medical professionals have sabotaged Mr. Bolsonaro’s plan to rein in the pandemic by refusing to prescribe those drugs more decisively at the early stages of illness.

“There was one solution: to listen to the president,” he said. “When people elect a leader it is because they trust him.”

The mistrust and the denials — and the caravans of Bolsonaro supporters blasting their horns outside hospitals to protest pandemic restrictions — are crushing for medical professionals who have lost colleagues to the virus and to suicide in recent months, said Claudia Franco, the president of the nurses union in Rio Grande do Sul.

“People are in such denial,” said Ms. Franco, who has been taking care of Covid-19 patients. “The reality we’re in today is we don’t have enough respirators for everyone, we don’t have oxygen for everyone.”

Ernesto Londoño reported from Porto Alegre. Letícia Casado reported from Brasília.

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Brazil Needs Vaccines. China Is Benefiting.

RIO DE JANEIRO — China was on the defensive in Brazil.

The Trump administration had been warning allies across the globe to shun Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, denouncing the company as a dangerous extension of China’s surveillance system.

Brazil, ready to build an ambitious 5G wireless network worth billions of dollars, openly took President Trump’s side, with the Brazilian president’s son — an influential member of Congress, himself — vowing in November to create a secure system “without Chinese espionage.”

Then pandemic politics upended everything.

With Covid-19 deaths rising to their highest levels yet, and a dangerous new virus variant stalking Brazil, the nation’s communications minister went to Beijing in February, met with Huawei executives at their headquarters and made a very unusual request of a telecommunication company.

“I took advantage of the trip to ask for vaccines, which is what everyone is clamoring for,” said the minister, Fábio Faria, recounting his meeting with Huawei.

hoarding many millions of doses for themselves — has offered a diplomatic and public relations opening that China has readily seized.

closely aligned with Mr. Trump, disparaged the Chinese vaccine while it was undergoing clinical trials in Brazil, and shut down an effort by the health ministry to order 45 million doses.

“The Brazilian people WON’T BE ANYONE’S GUINEA PIG,” he wrote on Twitter.

But with Mr. Trump gone and Brazilian hospitals overwhelmed by a surge of infections, Mr. Bolsonaro’s government scrambled to mend fences with the Chinese and asked them to expedite tens of millions of vaccine shipments, as well as the ingredients to mass-produce the shots in Brazil.

The precise impact of the vaccine request to Huawei and its inclusion in the 5G auction is unclear, but the timing is striking, part of a stark change in Brazil’s stance toward China. The president, his son and the foreign minister abruptly stopped criticizing China, while cabinet officials with inroads to the Chinese, like Mr. Faria, worked furiously to get new vaccine shipments approved. Millions of doses have arrived in recent weeks.

“With the desperation in Latin America for vaccines, this creates a perfect position for the Chinese,” said Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the United States Army War College, who specializes on the region’s relationship with China.

Britain and Germany — Huawei has mounted a well-timed charm offensive in Brazil.

said in a message on Twitter announcing the gift.

Before the first vaccines rolled off assembly lines, Huawei seemed to be losing the 5G contest in Brazil, knocked to the sidelines by the Trump administration’s campaign against it. Latin America’s largest nation was only months away from holding an auction to create its 5G network, a sweeping upgrade that will make wireless connections faster and more accessible.

Huawei, along with two European competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, aspired to play a leading role in partnering with local telecommunications companies to build the infrastructure. But the Chinese company needed the green light from Brazilian regulators to take part.

The Trump administration moved aggressively to thwart it. During a visit to Brazil last November, Keith Krach, then the State Department’s top official for economic policy, called Huawei an industry pariah that needed to be locked out of 5G networks.

“The Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted with our most sensitive data and intellectual property,” he said in a Nov. 11 speech in Brazil, during which he referred to Huawei as “the backbone of the CCP surveillance state.”

Brazil’s foreign ministry said Brazil “supports the principles contained in the Clean Network proposal made by the United States.”

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a son of the president, who headed the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Congress, said in a tweet that Brazil would back Washington’s push.

China had already faced scorn in some corners of Latin America early in the pandemic, as concerns that it had been careless in allowing the virus to slip beyond its borders took root. Beijing’s reputation took an additional hit in Peru, after exporting cheap, unreliable Covid tests that became an early misstep in the country’s efforts to rein in contagion.

But China found an opportunity to shift the narrative early this year, as its CoronaVac became the cheapest and most accessible inoculation for countries in the developing world.

With the pandemic under control in China, Sinovac, the maker of CoronaVac, began shipping millions of doses abroad, offering free samples to 53 countries and exporting it to 22 nations that placed orders.

As the first doses of CoronaVac were administered in Latin America, China took a swipe at wealthy nations that were doing little to guarantee prompt access to vaccines in poorer countries.

said in a speech late last month. “We hope that all countries that have the capability will join hands and make due contributions.”

In late February, as the first doses of China’s vaccines were being administered in Brazil, the country’s telecom regulatory agency announced rules for the 5G auction, which is scheduled to take place in July, that do not exclude Huawei.

The change in Brazil reflects how the campaign against Huawei driven by Mr. Trump has lost momentum since his defeat in the November election. Britain said it would not ban equipment made by Huawei from its new high-speed 5G wireless network. Germany has signaled a similar approach to Britain’s.

Thiago de Aragão, a Brasília-based political risk consultant who focuses on China’s relationships in Latin America, said two factors saved Huawei from a humiliating defeat in Brazil. The election of President Biden, who has harshly criticized Brazil’s environmental record, made the Brazilian government unenthusiastic about being in lock step with Washington, he said, and China’s ability to make or break the early phase of Brazil’s vaccination effort made the prospect of angering the Chinese by banning Huawei untenable.

“They were facing certain death by October and November and now they’re back in the game,” Mr. de Aragão said of Huawei.

The request for vaccines by the Brazilian communications minister, Mr. Faria, occurred as it became clear Beijing held the keys to accelerate or throttle the vaccination campaign in Brazil, where more than 270,000 people have died of Covid-19.

Feb. 11, Mr. Faria posted a letter from China’s ambassador to Brazil in which the ambassador noted the request and wrote that “I give this matter great importance.”

In a statement, Huawei did not say it would provide vaccines directly but said the company could help with “communication in an open and transparent manner in a topic involving the two governments.”

China is also the dominant supplier of vaccines in Chile, which has mounted the most aggressive inoculation campaign in Latin America, and it is shipping millions of doses to Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.

In a sign of China’s growing leverage, Paraguay, where Covid-19 cases are surging, has struggled to gain access to Chinese vaccines because it is among the few countries in the world that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.

In an interview, Paraguay’s foreign minister, Euclides Acevedo, said his country is seeking to negotiate access to CoronaVac through intermediary countries. Then he made an extraordinary overture to China, which has spent years trying to get the last few countries that recognize Taiwan to switch their alliances.

“We would hope the relationship does not end at vaccines, but takes on another dimension in the economic and cultural spheres,” he said. “We must be open to every nation as we seek cooperation and to do so we must have a pragmatic vision.”

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Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ May Run for Office Again as Court Cases Are Tossed

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Supreme Court justice in Brazil on Monday tossed out several criminal cases against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, restoring his right to seek the presidency again, in a decision with the potential to reshape Brazil’s political future.

Mr. da Silva, a fiery leftist leader who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been the front-runner in the 2018 presidential contest eventually won by Jair Bolsonaro. But the Supreme Court in April of that year ruled that Mr. da Silva could not appear on the ballot as a result of a conviction in a corruption case handed down in 2017.

With his political rights restored, Mr. Silva is widely expected to run against Mr. Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election.

The incumbent, a polarizing far-right leader who pays homage to Brazil’s military dictatorship, would face a formidable challenge in Mr. da Silva, a former political prisoner who remains revered among poor Brazilians.

a Supreme Court ruling in November 2019 allowed him to remain free while his appeals were pending.

The federal judge who oversaw that case, Sergio Moro, left the bench soon after Mr. Bolsonaro took office, and joined his cabinet as justice minister. The anti-corruption task force that investigated Mr. da Silva, which was based in the southern city of Curitiba, was disbanded earlier this year amid questions over ethical and procedural irregularities by its prosecutors.

On Monday, a Supreme Court justice, Edson Fachin, ruled that Mr. da Silva should never have been prosecuted in Curitiba. The decision, which covers four criminal cases, did not represent an acquittal of Mr. da Silva. The attorney general’s office said shortly after the decision was handed down that it would seek a ruling from the full court.

Justice Fachin said the former president could still face charges if prosecutors in the capital, Brasília, decide to take on some of the vacated cases. Mr. da Silva faces three other corruption cases in Brasília, which have not yet reached a verdict.

Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro. Letícia Casado contributed reporting from Brasília.

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