Health systems in Brazil are collapsing. Hospitals are running out of beds and oxygen as COVID cases in Brazil soar. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has long downplayed the severity of COVID and has discouraged mask wearing and lockdowns as well as promote unscientific cures. Meanwhile, a variant strain of the virus, which is dominant in Brazil, is particularly infectious.

All this has lead to soaring death rates and a health catastrophe in South America’s largest country.

It is in this context that some stunning legal developments have shaken the Brazilian political scene.  In early March a Brazilian court annulled the criminal conviction of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He was the popular left-wing President of Brazil between 2003 and 2011 who was brought down as part of a massive corruption scandal known as Operation Car Wash. Subsequent revelations suggest that the prosecutors and judges in his case were not acting above board.

Now, with Lula back on the campaign trail Brazil is poised for a very intense political showdown between Jair Bolsonaro, who often exhibits the traits of a right-wing demagogue and the left wing populist Lula.

Elections are in October next year.

On the line line to help me understand the current situation in Brazil is Leticia Casado, a journalist and stringer for the New York Times who is based in Brasilia, Brazil.

We kick off discussing how and why the COVID crisis became so acute across the country before discussing the current political intrigue. And, as Leticia Casado explains, there is a direct link between the COVID-19 crisis and this emerging political competition.

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