When Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Carnival kicked off last Friday, there was a mood of unease among the flamboyant revelers. It was plainly visible behind the laughter and the music, in many of the costumes and chants targeting President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration, which is less than three months old. But while the crowds were expressing concerns about the new far-right government, their message was also a sign of how much Bolsonaro has stumbled out of the gate.
Amid rumors, denied by the Brazilian government, that the military was planning to censor anti-Bolsonaro demonstrations and crack down on a gay parade, Carnival participants chanted rebukes to anti-gay statements made by Bolsonaro’s human rights minister. They dressed in costumes with political symbols aimed at highlighting the early appearance of alleged corruption in Bolsonaro’s inner circle. Brazil’s hard-line president, who won last year’s election by vowing to uproot corruption, revive the economy and dispense with politically correct policies, is already facing charges of nepotism, and his administration is caught up in graft scandals. Relations with Brazil’s Congress are brittle, and there are troubling signs of renewed unrest in protected indigenous areas of the country.
Bolsonaro has not reached the 100-day mark, a traditional place to pause and take stock, but his administration has run into difficulties that suggest the path ahead will remain rocky. One reason why is that a major source of this trouble is Bolsonaro’s own family.