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Brazil’s political crisis and Covid surge

Episode 210331 / 31 Mar 2021

The story

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is facing the biggest crisis of his presidency as the country recorded its highest Covid-19 daily death toll.

Useful vocabulary

crisis – very difficult situation

plummets/plummeted – drops/dropped suddenly and quickly

on the brink – at a point when something bad is going to happen

collapse – not functioning any more

quit – stop doing your job

surge – sudden increase

contagious – describes something that easily spreads from one person to another

whining – continually complaining

mismanagement – bad organisation or control (of something)

ramped up - increased

reshuffle – move the position of (something or someone)

Questions about the story 

1. How many cabinet members did President Jair Bolsonaro replace this week?

2. Why have the heads of Brazil’s army, navy and air force quit?

3. True or false? The highest number of people to die from coronavirus on one day in Brazil was reached on Tuesday.

4. How has Mr Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis
affected his popularity?

5. What might Brazil’s high coronavirus death rate become a threat to?

More about the story

What has been happening?
Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro replaced six cabinet ministers as his popularity plummets over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Brazil's health service is reported to be on the brink of collapse as the country faces a deadly second wave.

What has happened now?
The heads of Brazil’s army, navy and air force have all quit. The unprecedented resignation of the defence chiefs is being seen as a protest against attempts by Mr Bolsonaro to have too much control over the military.

What else has been happening?
Nearly 314,000 people have died from coronavirus, and a new daily record of 3,780 was reached onTuesday. There have been more than 12.5 million confirmed cases. It is thought that the latest surge in cases is because of the spread of highly contagious variants of the virus.

Mr Bolsonaro's popularity has plummeted over his response to Covid-19. He has also told Brazilians to "stop whining" about the situation.

What does this mean for Bolsonaro?
The BBC's Latin America correspondent, Will Grant, says Mr Bolsonaro is now facing his biggest political crisis since taking office in January 2019. He also says, combined with his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, the pressure on the leader has ramped up significantly in recent weeks. On Monday, the president was forced to reshuffle his cabinet after his foreign and defence ministers both quit.

How serious is this?
It’s not known what Mr Bolsonaro might do next.Brazil has been struggling with the rollout of its vaccination programme across the vast country. The daily Covid-19 death toll passed 3,000 for the first time earlier this month, pushing hospitals close to collapse and raising fears that the country could become a threat to global public health.

Find out more from the original BBC news report.

The answers

1. How many cabinet members did President Jair Bolsonaro replace this week?
President Bolsonaro replaced six cabinet ministers.

2. Why have the heads of Brazil’s army, navy and air force quit?
They felt Mr Bolsonaro was trying to have too much control over the military.

3. True or false? The highest number of people to die from coronavirus on one day in Brazil was reached on Tuesday.
True. A new daily record of 3,780 deaths was reached Tuesday.

4. How has Mr Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis affected his popularity?
Mr Bolsonaro's popularity has plummeted over his response to Covid-19.

5. What might Brazil’s high coronavirus death rate become a threat to?
The rising death toll is raising fears that the country could become a threat to global public health.

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