Most Brazilians do not want Bolsonaro to resign despite criticism of his coronavirus response - poll

By Gabriela Mello
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Most Brazilians do not want Bolsonaro to resign despite criticism of his coronavirus response - poll

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro reacts while meeting supporters as he arrives at Alvorada Palace, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia

By Gabriela Mello

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Most Brazilians do not favor President Jair Bolsonaro resigning despite mounting criticism of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a poll published by newspaper Folha de S.Paulo on Sunday.

The survey conducted by Datafolha pollster from Wednesday to Friday showed that 59% of the 1,511 respondents would oppose Bolsonaro's resignation, while 37% would approve and 4% could not give an opinion. The margin of error was 3 percentage points, the newspaper said.

Bolsonaro has never suggested he is considering resigning.

On Friday, the same pollster said Bolsonaro's coronavirus performance was rated "bad" or "awful" by 39% of respondents surveyed, up from 33% last month. Those who consider his response to the health crisis "good" or "great" slipped to 33% from 35%.

Brazil's death toll rose to 486 from 431, while the number of confirmed cases jumped to 11,130 from 10,278, according to Health Ministry figures released on Sunday afternoon.

Bolsonaro has downplayed the COVID-19 respiratory disease from the novel coronavirus as a "little flu," stirring up conflicts with governors and his own health minister who advocate social distancing measures that the president sees as economically disastrous.

His insistence in fighting unemployment during an unprecedented public health crisis has driven his approval rating to its lowest level since he took office last year in a conservative swing by Brazilian voters.

Bolsonaro called for a national day of fasting and prayer on Sunday to "free Brazil from this evil" epidemic. Evangelical supporters played a key role in his election


OUTBREAK AND AGRIBUSINESS

Even with lockdown measures paralyzing most of Latin America's largest economy, Brazilian agribusiness is striving to avoid supply disruptions and emerge from the crisis even stronger.

"We must ensure our crop this year continues plentiful so we can supply our own country and jump at opportunities that may arise," Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told agribusiness representatives on Sunday.

She noted some countries in the Northern Hemisphere would have a shorter planting window this year because of the coronavirus. "I have the feeling that we can become a great food supplier to the rest of the world," Cristina said.

The minister recognized the hardships faced by some players, such as sugar-ethanol companies, amid a tumble in domestic demand, but said the government was working to help the sector.

"Harvest has started and sugarcane cannot sit on the field for long, so we must act urgently," Cristina said, adding that a "war-budget" amendment should ease access to credit for many sectors.

The main text of the bill passed late on Friday in the lower house but still needs Senate approval. Besides separating coronavirus-related spending from the government's main budget, the amendment grants the central bank emergency bond-buying powers to stabilize financial markets..

Among other initiatives to support agribusiness amid the coronavirus crisis, Cristina cited plans to anticipate credit from the so-called Crop Plan, a government policy that extends subsidized financing lines, for the 2020/2021 season.


(Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)