As we approach our midterms... Brazilians have just elected a new president: a right-wing former army officer turned politician named Jair Bolsonaro. He'll take the reigns of a country in trouble -- with a weak economy, endemic corruption, out-of-control violence - and social programs the government can't afford. Correspondent Jonathan Elias takes us to Brazil to investigate the big political change.
It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Just a few years ago, the economy was booming.. poised to become the 5th largest in the world.. Now, it’s in a state of crisis.
Ilona Szabo: Last year we had almost 64,000 murders.
Ilona Szabo told us 1 in 10 murdered in the world today .. a Brazilian. Add to that, the economy is in deep trouble.
Felipe Moura: It’s a terrible situation..
Felipe Moura Brasil is a conservative journalist here. He told us Brazilians were fed up living in a country riddled with corruption.
Felipe: People started to see that they were stealing from taxpayers.
He also blamed an array of expensive social programs for bloating the government.. free health care for all, government handouts to the poor and much more.
Felipe: They want to increase the minimum wage. They want to increase the public service salary. They want to increase the pensions.
Already, Brazil’s faltering economy has forced cutbacks in some of its most successful programs, such as Bolsa Familia – a monthly stipend to the poor. It was created by former left wing President Lula Da Silva.
Eduardo Bueno: He took 20 million people out of the poverty line. This can’t be forgotten.
Eduardo Bueno is a best-selling author of 33 books on Brazilian history.
Eduardo Bueno: Some people used to say that’s just like giving something to a beggar.
Jonathan: a handout.
Eduardo Bueno: A tip. It was a kind of tip actually but these people needed a tip.
People like Sylvana da Silva who we met inside one of Rio’s poorest favelas. There’s limited running water.. intermittent electricity.. and no sewage system. Sylvana has 6 kids and a job sorting trash at the dump. She told us her stipend has gotten smaller recently, 90 dollars a month.
What would happen if the stipends went away? It’d be very bad, she told us.
Sylvana: I have a job and a small income, but I know others who depend on it entirely.
The economy has also impacted the socialized health care system which has been underfunded – and mismanaged -- for years.
Jonathan: I mean, this does not strike me as a fist-world hospital.
Dr. Jose Bonamigo took us on an unannounced visit to one of the premiere public hospitals in Brazil.
Jonathan: This place looks like it’s falling apart.
Dr. Bonamigo: Yes it is.
He is a Doctor of Internal Medicine and Hematology .. and also an officer in the Brazilian Medical Association.
Jonathan: It’s tough to believe that this is one of the flagship hospitals in Brazil. You have exposed outlets, you have a ceiling that is collapsed, and you have windows that have been broken out and not replaced.
Dr. Bonamigo: All we can offer is substandard care, because the system doesn't have management and money to make things work. So this is the reality.
Brazil is the only country on earth with a population of more than 100 million people that has free health care for all. By many measures, it has led to huge health gains. They’ve been successful at controlling the AIDS epidemic and their vaccination program is widespread and effective. The wealthiest typically pay for private care, but some 75% of Brazilians depend on this public system.
Jonathan: What happens to people with this kind of care?
Dr. Bonamigo: People die. People die in lines waiting for surgery, waiting for exams. It's a tragedy.
Jair Bolsonaro won the Presidency by riding a wave of deep discontent with the way things are in Brazil even as his many critics labeled him a hardliner with sexist, even racist, views. Some Brazilians we met had been frustrated for too long – and now they’re ready to leave.
Rafael: We don’t have security, we don’t have healthy, we don’t have basic stuffs for living.
Ana Luiza Rehder has lived in this same apartment since she was three, but life here has become just too much.
Ana Luiza: I’m like Oh, it’s been a while that I haven’t been robbed. Cause I’ve been robbed a lot here in Rio.
She expects to leave soon, but hopes to come back someday.
Jonathan: Can Brazil be fixed?
Bueno: Sure. It’s such a big, such a rich place. Its gonna work someday, I hope.
Felipe Moura Brasil told us he hopes so, too. But he believes there is a lesson here for the rest of the world.
Felipe: See what happened in Brazil and don’t imitate us.
Bolsonaro gets sworn in January first.