Brazil just voted in a far-right extremist president: Why it matters
Brazil is a nation famous for producing and exporting some of the world’s most talented futbol players, but as of Sunday, the world’s eyes are on the nation for a different reason. Brazil has elected the far-right politician and former military leader, Jair Bolsonaro as the nation’s new President.
Winning 55 percent of the vote, Bolsonaro defeated Fernando Haddad from the leftist Workers Party, marking a decisive moment for the Latin American continent and global politics.
A long-time congressman and backbencher, Bolsonaro’s presidential victory is particularly remarkable given that Bolsonaro has largely occupied a relatively marginal position in the Brazilian political scene.
Yet, similar to other far-right and nationalist political movements that have gained traction across Europe and the United States, a combination of factors and crises have led to this move to political extremism in Brazil.
Brazil is still reeling from the biggest corruption scandal the country has ever faced.
Dubbed ‘Operation Car Wash,’ a federal investigation exposed a monumental money laundering scheme that funneled billions of dollars into the pockets of Brazilian politicians and business leaders.
With allegations of bribery and corruption connected to the former government (PT), it was always going to be an uphill battle for Bolsonaro’s opposition leader, Fernando Haddad.
In addition, the popular former President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva (also a member of the Workers Party), was barred from running for the Presidential election due to his ties to the national corruption scandal.
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Acabo de receber os cumprimentos do Primeiro Ministro de Israel @b.netanyahu (Benjamin Netanyahu) ao lado do Embaixador Yossi Shelley. Nossos laços de amizade se traduzirão em acordos onde nossos povos serão os maiores beneficiados. ——— I’ve just received incredible words from the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu as well as from ambassador Yossi Shelley. Our friendship ties will undoubtedly result in mutual agreements that will surely benefit both of our nations and citizens.
With crime in Brazil rampant and continuing to escalate, the Brazilian public is looking to the government for answers.
Since Brazil shares a border with three nations that are the world’s biggest cocaine producers and distributors, much of the violence in Brazil is drug-related and induced by gang violence.
Still, the problem has been exacerbated by the continual mismanagement of public security funds from government officials. Consequently, the police and local security forces are underpaid and devoid of the resources to combat the crime on the street.
As violence, suffering, and death rage on in the streets of Brazil, the fraudulence enacted by the leftist government and the corporate class has been viewed with disdain from the Brazilian public.
Evidently, since much of the public’s safety day-to-day is not guaranteed, people are scared and perceive the government as neither representative of their interests nor fulfilling its role to protect its own citizens.
The corruption and the government’s seeming indifference to the issue of crime in Brazil have led to a lack of faith in the democratic system.
Plus, Brazil has only been a democracy for just over two decades. Like most Latin American countries, the transition (or imposition) of democracy and a free-market economic system has been fraught with difficulty.
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Brazil recently endured its worst recession in 100 years. Though it was announced that the recession had come to an end in 2017, 13 million people remain unemployed in Brazil.
Although Bolsonaro was quoted saying he knows nothing about economics, that didn’t deter 55 percent of the voting population to elect him as President.
When this is the political, social and economic climate, people look to people for answers. In other words, all of these conditions provide fertile ground for political extremism.
Cue, Jair Bolsonaro.
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In his campaign speeches, Bolsonaro has promoted himself as an anti-establishment candidate and has relentlessly pointed out both the failings of the opposition party promised to end political and corporate corruption.
Bolsonaro has capitalized on people’s fears, anxieties and discontent with the current state of the nation. Despite his endorsement of torture and brutal strategies executed by the former military dictatorship that reigned from 1964-1985, his pro-military stance and propagation of law and order have resonated with the public.
Throughout his political career, Bolsonaro has been a vocal supporter of Brazil’s former right-wing dictatorship. Given that Bolsonaro openly declared during his campaign that if elected he would imprison his political opponents, there is a lot to be concerned about.
His strategy to combat Brazil’s rampant street crime is to loosen the nation’s gun laws so that more people are armed for self-defense. With Brazil having the largest national homicide rate in the world, I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
Bolsonaro is also a climate change denier. In light of the IPCC report published last month, the administration’s decision to continue to privilege industries of mining and invest nuclear energy over green energy proves immensely alarming.
Plus, with Bolsonaro’s government announcing their intention of carrying out ‘agricultural activities’ in the Amazon rainforest, it is apparent that our natural wonders are under serious threat.
I think it is meek to call Bolsonaro’s rhetoric as simply ‘provocative.’
There is a pressing need to call out his language for what it exactly is — racist, misogynist and homophobic. We must move away from falling into the dangerous terrain of normalizing such rhetoric.
The retrenchment of democracy and the seemingly inevitable installment of the military dictatorship should not be taken lightly since the former regime was an era characterized by extreme violence, mass murder, torture and censorship.
Bolsonaro will take office on January 1, 2019.