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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Far-right provocateur Jair Bolsonaro — whose misogyny, racism and reverence for military dictators has made him one of Latin America's most polarizing figures — is poised to win Brazil's presidency in Sunday's runoff election, potentially bringing an end to 15 years of leftist rule.

Why it matters: The political situation in Brazil is a particularly extreme offshoot of the populist wave that continues to upend establishment parties all over the world. Brazil's once-promising economy, which averaged 4% GDP growth between 2004 and 2013, has been crippled by recession, with corruption scandals at the highest levels of government bringing a perfect storm of anger and financial despair to the 2018 election.

The backdrop: Brazil's president from 2003 to 2011 was Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former union leader known for raising his country's living standards through generous social programs while also engaging in corruption schemes that ultimately resulted in his imprisonment.

  • By the end of Lula's term, 20 million Brazilians had been lifted from poverty and direct foreign investment had tripled to $30 billion, per The Guardian. With the economy humming, Lula left office with an approval rating near 90%.
  • In 2014, just as an economic crisis prepared to strike, Brazilian authorities launched a massive corruption investigation that ended with the conviction of Lula and the impeachment of his successor, Dilma Rousseff.
  • Lula remains a popular figure in Brazilian politics, and was the presidential frontrunner this year before being barred from the election in August. But Brazilians have otherwise become extremely disenchanted with their government.

By the numbers: Between Lula's last year and 2018, per Gallup...

  • The number of Brazilians who say they have confidence in their government has dropped from 50% to 17%.
  • The number of Brazilians who view their government as corrupt has grown from 63% to 80%.
  • The number of Brazilians who have struggled to afford food has increased from 17% to 32%.

The big picture: Brazil is suffering from a crisis of confidence and a sputtering economy. Conditions like these have been a breeding ground for populist backlash all over the world, and the rise of Jair Bolsonaro is no exception.

  • The former military captain has been likened to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as he has pledged to purge the country of corruption and crack down on crime — even if that means ignoring democratic norms. And yet Brazilians, desperate for change, don't seem to mind.
  • "I would rather have a president who is homophobic or racist than one who is a thief," one Brazilian voter told BBC News Mundo.

The bottom line: The result of Sunday's election, many experts fear, could lead to an overcorrection that takes Brazil back to an authoritarian-style of rule it escaped only in 1985.

Go deeper

Tim Scott hopes to reintroduce version of GOP police reform bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters Wednesday he plans to reintroduce his police reform bill or a similar proposal in the coming weeks and that he has discussed a potential compromise with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Why it matters: Eyes have again turned to Washington to take steps to address police reform in the wake of Derek Chauvin's guilty verdict Tuesday, after efforts stalled in Congress last year.

Biden announces small business tax credits for vaccine PTO

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday called on all employers to provide workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from COVID side effects, and said he'll include a paid tax credit for small businesses that do so.

Why it matters: The Biden administration sees workplaces as highly influential in making shots more convenient for working adults who are in high-risk industries.

White House unveils plans for high-profile climate summit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration offered new details this morning about the big, virtual climate summit Thursday and Friday and signaled they expect new emissions reduction and climate finance commitments from multiple countries.

Driving the news: The administration said 40 heads of state would attend, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.