Banks, industry, and agribusiness sectors drive away from Bolsonaro before the elections

Less than two months before the elections, businessmen and businesswomen linked to banks, industry, and even agribusiness, are getting more and more politically distanced from Bolsonaro (Liberal Party). After the government’s poor economic performance and the president’s pro-coup statements, entrepreneurs from different sectors signed public letters in favor of democracy and became the target of criticism from Bolsonaro.

This growing distancing can be traced back to two months ago – even before the emergence of manifestos in defense of the elections. However, this process was already motivated by electoral concerns.

In June, for instance, the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo published that Paulo Skaf, former president of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (Fiesp, in Portuguese), stated to his allies that he was feeling betrayed by the president precisely due to a lack of support for his candidacy to the Senate. Skaf was a close ally of Bolsonaro and was even appointed to the Council of the Republic.

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In July, agribusiness entrepreneur Elusmar Maggi criticized Bolsonaro. Elusmar is a partner of Bom Futuro company, Eraí Maggi’s brother (businessman known as “the soybean king”), and Blairo Maggi’s cousin (former minister during Temer’s government). He took a position after agribusinessmen from Mato Grosso state had criticized an alliance between candidates linked to the sector and the Workers’ Party.

“What a trouble this president is [Bolsonaro]. If he were a good one, he would have granted money to build storage units, just as Lula did”, he said, in an audio recording made public by the press. “This president is terrible at putting his best foot forward. “This rider-president, who is nothing more than a motorcycle rider, sets bad examples for the country”.

Agribusiness is one of the sectors most identified with Bolsonaro and to which the president pays a lot of attention. According to a survey published by the website Poder360, since launching his pre-candidacy for reelection, on March 27, Bolsonaro had 15 meetings with agribusiness entrepreneurs. All told, during this period the president met businessmen (from all sectors) 37 times, that is, almost half of the time was dedicated to agribusiness.

Pro-coup statements expand the distance 

In his pre-candidacy, Bolsonaro reiterated his attacks on electronic voting machines and his criticisms of official institutions, such as the Brazilian Supreme Court. The president’s statements motivated manifestos in favor of democracy. Business entities and well-known businessmen and businesswomen adhered to these manifestos, contradicting Bolsonaro.

Also in July, bankers Roberto Setubal and Pedro Salles, from Itaú-Unibanco, businessmen Guilherme Leal, from Natura company, and Horácio Lafer Piva, from Klavin, signed a document prepared by the Law School of the University of São Paulo. 

Up to now, this manifesto has 740,000 signatures.

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Days after that, Fiesp announced that they were preparing their own letter in favor of democracy. The document gained the support of the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban, in Portuguese), the Federation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism of the State of São Paulo (Fecomércio-SP, in Portuguese), the Brazilian Association of Infrastructure and Basic Industries (Abdib, in Portuguese) and the country’s main trade unions.

Bolsonaro belittled the initiative. First, he recalled that Fiesp’s current president, Josué Gomes, is the son of the late José de Alencar, former vice president during the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Workers’ Party), who is running for presidency in this year’s elections. After Febraban had joined the manifesto, the Brazilian president said that the letter was a reaction to the decrease in profits due to the launching of Pix (an instant and free electronic payment option) during his government. This decrease in profits never happened. 

Because of the letter prepared by Fiesp, Bolsonaro canceled a visit to the entity that he himself had scheduled to take place on August 11. During the visit, he would meet with business entrepreneurs and be invited to sign the entity’s manifesto, which he criticizes.

New relation 

Bolsonaro was elected with the support of the business community. Business owners appreciated his efforts to approve the Welfare Reform, for instance. Banks have reported record profits during Bolsonaro’s term and have benefited from measures, proposed by the government, to stimulate credit. Among these measures are payroll-deductible loans linked to Brazil Aid, which was just recently established.

According to political scientist Cláudio Gonçalves Couto, professor at Getúlio Vargas Foundation, the relationship between the capital owners and the government has never been so bad, basically for two reasons: first, because the economy, in general, is doing badly; second, because they know that any coup attempt would make the situation even worse.

“The business community realized that that is a disastrous government. The community is not interested in being in a country with a disastrous government”, Couto explained. “However, there isn’t any interest in an institutional break”. 

Simone Deos, professor at the Institute of Economics of the State University of Campinas, believes that a part of the business community, mainly those involved in the industrial sector, is mobilizing for the creation of a development policy for the country. The Bolsonaro government did nothing about it. That’s why – and thinking about the survival of their own businesses – they seem to be looking for another president.

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“[They want] A development project for Brazil that, first of all, must respect democracy”, she said in her analysis of the Fiesp initiative, for instance. 

André Roncaglia, economist and professor at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp, in Portuguese) recalled that the business community has different interests. He agrees that they have recently driven away from Bolsonaro, but said that the president is still supported by some business, agribusiness, and capital market sectors.

“A lot of people are at Faria Lima [Avenue] feeling that their assets have grown”, he said. “They still trust in Bolsonaro and in his economic agenda represented by minister Paulo Guedes”.

The most recent poll released by Quaest and Genial Bank, for instance, points out that, among people whose monthly income is above six times the minimum wage (about 6,000 reais), Bolsonaro heads the presidential race and is getting more and more votes. In January, he had 27% of voting intention. This month, he has 45%. 

Tweet: 8/ Some intersections are worth mentioning, starting with the regional division that shows Lula and Bolsonaro tied in all regions of the country, with the exception of the Northeast region, where Lula remains the undisputable winner (61 x 20).

Tweet: 9/ The differences in monthly income are more obvious in this survey. While the distance between Lula and Bolsonaro has decreased among the poorest voters (from 33 to 27 percentage points), it increases among the richest voters who support Bolsonaro (jumped from 4 to 13 percentage points). Among voters who have an average income, it was stable in the [historical] series.

Publicação de: Brasil de Fato – Blog

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