Mayor Bruno Covas, A Moderate Politician Who Confronted Authoritarianism, Dies at 41 in SP

In April, he was hospitalized for 12 days at the Sírio-Libanês Hospital, in São Paulo, when exams found that the tumor, originating in the digestive tract, had spread to the liver and also to the bones

Bruno Covas, who emerged as mayor of Brazil's largest city by preaching moderation in an ultra polarized political scenario, passed away in São Paulo at the age of 41 in consequence of a cancer discovered in 2019.

In April, he was hospitalized for 12 days at the Sírio-Libanês Hospital, in São Paulo, when exams found that the tumor, originating in the digestive tract, had spread to the liver and also to the bones. He was discharged on the 27th but was admitted to the hospital again on May 2nd. On Friday (14) night, a medical report stated that his scenario was irreversible.

The bet on a central orientation led Covas (PSDB) to be reappointed as mayor of the City of São Paulo in the 2020 elections when he defeated opponents from both left and right. With his back turned to ideological discourses, he highlighted his political experience, as well as his coping with his disease - which he disclosed to the public right after the diagnosis - and his management of turbulent periods in the city, such as the coronavirus pandemic earlier in the year.

After a period with the disease under control, he received in February of this year, shortly after starting his new mandate, the news of the worsening of his condition. A new lump was diagnosed, and the mayor resumed chemotherapy.

The disease, as well as the vocalization of an anti-authoritarian speech that he aimed at President Jair Bolsonaro, before others did, managed to change the public image of Covas until then seen as a young bohemian mayor.

In 2016, Covas became vice mayer in João Doria's (PSDB) ticket for the city hall. In April 2018, at the age of 38, he would take over the post of mayor, left by Doria when he stepped down in order to run for the state government elections. His greatest legacy probably lies in the way he took a stand against the president's authoritarian outbursts, in anassertive but not strident manner, supported by the admiration he declared for his grandfather.

Despite a slight amicability to the left, Covas used to say that he was a “center radical”. Despite Doria's project to create a “new” PSDB, much more rightwing oriented, the mayor maintained a small group more faithful to their Democratic social roots.

On the other hand, he also nurtured a taste for privatization and fiscal austerity, at the expense of cuts in the social sectors. In this tone, he reached the end of the first term with a good cash flow, which would allow him to triple expenses in janitorial, one of the bets to win the hearts of the voters in São Paulo.

Skillful behind the scenes, Covas articulated important projects in the Chamber of congress, such as a Social Security reform. In exchange for this traffic, however, he kept the allotment of positions for councilors.

In this manner his vice mayor, Ricardo Nunes, emerged. The former councilman who kept appointments at the city hall by the end of Cova's first administration ended up as the running partner of the PSDB candidate as a result of Doria's intervention, taking the MDB's television time to the broad electoral coalition.

Bruno Covas Lopes was born in Santos (SP) on April 7, 1980. His greatest reference was his maternal grandfather, Mário Covas, who had regained political rights the year before Bruno's birth and who would become, in the following decades, mayor, senator, and governor of São Paulo, in addition to co-founder of the PSDB party.

With homegrown inspiration, Bruno constantly repeated that what he liked to do was politics.

He came to present himself, in 2016, as a pre-candidate for mayor of São Paulo, but gave up before the party's preliminaries. As a vice candidate, his name helped to pacify PSDB members dissatisfied with the choice of Doria as candidate by the then governor, Alckmin.

Covas was a discreet vice mayor. It was at this time that he made a personal turnaround. He lost 16 kg, went to the gym regularly, and shaved his head. With a more youthful look, he would reach the height of his political career.

Throughout his mandate, he had his son Tomás , the result of a ten-year marriage to former college friend, Karen Ichiba, who he divorced in 2014, as his everyday compaion at the city hall

(FILE) SÃO PAULO, SP, 18.03.2019 - Bruno Covas. (Foto: Otavio Valle/Folhapress) - Folhapress


The main electoral window during the elections that resulted in the victory of Bruno Covas last year, Ricardo Nunes (MDB), 53, will take over as mayor of the largest city in the country under one major uncertainty: keep PSDB's original course or promote a turnaround, given his more conservative profile and his history as a councilor.

Nunes's connections with daycare center management entities and a complaint threat registered by his wife, revealed by Folha, ended up serving as ammunition against the electoral ticket of Covas and the then City Councilman, Nunes, during the 2020 elections.

Ideologically, Nunes has a different profile from Covas as he is linked to the conservative wing of the Catholic Church. In 2015, he acted against the so-called “gender ideology”, as conservatives tend to refer to mentions of sexual diversity.

During the period when he served as Covas' Vice mayor, the MDB member was described as active, discreet, solicitous, and cordial even by some politicians of the opposition.

Translated by Cassy Dias