By Nanny Santana Figueiredo
Image: Clara Pratelli
On October 28 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil’s new president with 55,13% of the nation’s valid votes. Riding a wave of populism, Bolsonaro acquired popular support by shouting offences against homosexuals, women and blacks. Most importantly, he presented himself as a fresh option, a fighter against corruption, and an anti-establishment champion for many Brazilians who are discouraged by the current political landscape. However, Bolsonaro has been in office for almost 30 years, as a city councilor and later as a federal deputy, and yet he has only managed to pass two pieces of legislation. This speaks volumes about his competence for the job.
His lack of political preparation for the presidential position was visible during the presidential race, where he would make polemic declarations and later backtrack on them. For instance, Bolsonaro said that if elected, he would pull out of the UN, describing it as a “meeting place for communists” — a display of ignorance not tolerable for a future president.
Were incompetence his only problem, Brazil could manage. But, the issue of Bolsonaro goes much deeper. It is based on his constant attack on human rights, his contempt for democratic debate and his dictatorial rhetoric. These tendencies have been shown through a plethora of his past quotes, which were shared by many major media outlets. His displays of misogyny, homophobia and racism empowered the most extreme sector of his electorate. As a consequence, this election has been considered one of the most violent in Brazil’s history.
This violence goes along with Bolsonaro’s agenda, known for stating that a good criminal is a dead one. Not only does this violate the due process of law principle, it is also not proven to be an effective approach to tackling crime. His encouragement of executions will most likely victimize the vulnerable black population in Brazil which already has the highest rates of death in the country. This might explain why he lost the popular vote to Haddad, the candidate of PT, in 975 of the poorest cities in Brazil where people are directly threatened by this type of policy.
This shows that despite claims made in the “Brazil, Bolsonaro and a Tale of Extremes” op-ed published in The Sundial Press earlier this month, Bolsonaro was not a candidate with support “from diverse sections of Brazilian society”. He was a candidate for the rich and entitled in Brazil, for those who are not concerned about racism, homophobia and gender-based oppression on a daily basis.
Moreover, Bolsonaro has undermined the democratic character of elections. He categorically refused to participate in debates during the second round of elections, an unprecedented event since Brazil’s re-democratization in the 80’s. His excuse was a lack of medical clearance after being stabbed during the campaign trail. Even after the medical board gave him permission, Bolsonaro still refused to engage. However, on the same day as a debate, he did give a solo interview on a major evangelical TV channel that resonated with his beliefs.
His denial of open dialogue and lack of contribution to hard-won democratic practices is a cause for worry. At the end of his campaign trail, he spoke to a crowd of proud supporters and stated that he would commit the biggest purge ever seen in Brazil. It refers to his opposition, to anyone who stood against him, but more specifically to the Left. Bolsonaro added that the only options for them would be jail or exile.
To clarify, the opposition is composed of 47,040,096 people.
In democracies, it is recognised that elected governments must stand for all the people. The core of global democracy has been threatened by the rise of polarizing speech on multiple continents. Even worse, people around the world have started to settle into an “us vs. them” mindset. Bolsonaro takes these trends to the extreme, and his supporters gladly follow along. In Salvador, Bahia, after the first round of elections, artist and capoeira dancer Mestre Moa was stabbed to death by a Bolsonaro supporter after a debate. The president’s rhetoric emboldens fascists, as he fails to recognize the basic human rights and dignity of all Brazilians. Instead, he only believes in the rights of those who support him.
Since winning the election, Bolsonaro has threatened to cut federal funds for one of Brazil’s biggest newspapers, Folha de São Paulo, accusing them of publishing fake accusations against him. The same article by the paper shows that Bolsonaro attacked the press 10 times a week during the final month of elections. The freedom of the press is one of the pillars of a democratic society. His attacks on the media further emphasizes his message to supporters that anything not coming directly from his mouth is fake news. Ironically, the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) in Brazil forbade Bolsonaro from propagating certain points of his campaign that were recognized as fake news.
A campaign fueled by hate speech, fake news and anti-democratic tendencies landed Bolsonaro the job in a country which has, for the past 12 years, placed its bets on a more socially oriented political platform. Now, what to expect from a extreme right-wing government? Bolsonaro has displayed interest in merging the Ministries of Agribusiness and Environment, even after facing criticism. The problem: those in charge of running agribusiness would also be responsible for decisions regarding the Amazon — the world’s most important forest. Although his financial backers might be excited, the rest of the population is undoubtedly less thrilled. By retracting Brazil’s commitment to the environment, Bolsonaro jeopardizes the future of the nation, but also of the rest of world.
Bolsonaro has admitted that he is not the most capable person for the job, but absolved himself by saying that God enables the chosen ones. Brazil should start praying then, because his actions so far indicate that he is neither a man who knows what he is doing, nor someone who has good intentions for the future.
Nanny is a loud exchange student from Brazil. She is Passionate about books, international law, politics and social justice. You can always talk to her about these things… or TV shows.
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