Election Erupts in Brazil

By: Rahem Hamid (News Correspondent)

Democracy was restored in Brazil in 1985 ending 21 years of a military dictatorship. But 33 years afterward, Brazil has elected far-right nationalistic populist Jair Bolsonaro.  

Receiving approximately 55% of the vote in the runoff, Bolsonaro defeated leftist Fernando Haddad on Sunday. He is just one of several leaders riding a wave of far-right populist nationalism, which has swept the world in recent years. His rhetoric matches that of several other notable far-right politicians.

Once calling immigrants the “scum of humanity”, Bolsonaro is a “proud homophobe”, firm pro-life supporter, and once told a female lawmaker he’d “never rape her because she didn’t deserve it”.

Bolsonaro has also voiced support for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and for cutting down the already threatened Amazon Rainforest. This has incredible ramifications for man-made climate change. Brazil is one of the five BRICS nations, five countries which are rapidly advancing economically. Another industrially advanced nation withdrawing from the Paris Accord would make it much more difficult to keep warm underneath 1.5°C before the end of the century, especially in light of the October IPCC report saying that drastic measures must be taken for this to happen.

Perhaps most controversially, Bolsonaro is a proud supporter of torture and the military dictatorship. When former president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment vote in Congress was being held, Bolsonaro voted yes in “memory of Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra”, “a colonel who ran a torture center during the…military dictatorship”, as per the New York Times.

He has called for a coup before, and said that change will only occur once 30,000 people are killed, which he calls “the job that the military regime didn’t do”.

But Bolsonaro ran a fervent anti-corruption campaign, and in a country which has been plagued by political corruption for years, his anti-corruption message was popular. He rode a wave of anger against the leftist “Worker’s Party that ruled Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years,” Philip Reeves of NPR explains. This fact, coupled with a massive recession which occurred recently, resulted in anger against the party in power, Reeves says.

The campaign was also marred by violence. In early September, Bolsonaro was stabbed at a rally, losing “40% of his blood”. The attack was quickly denounced by Brazilian leaders from all sides of the political spectrum.

The comparisons between Bolsonaro and Trump were quick to be drawn. The two are very similar- Bolsonaro has expressed his opinion that the Brazilian Embassy in Israel will be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he has said that Brazil will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, and he too, rode a wave of far-right populism to the capital. A writer in the BBC noted, “The rapid rise of Brazil’s new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro may have surprised some observers but it did not come out of thin air. His success follows years of support from powerful social movements.”

Trump called Bolsonaro shortly after his victory to congratulate him, and National Security Adviser John Bolton praised Bolsonaro, “calling him a “like-minded” partner whose ascent should be seen as a welcome development in the region,” Politico reported.

But despite the threat to minorities due to this election, one benefit is clear: Brazil-U.S. relations will be better than before.

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