Jair Bolosonaro was inaugurated into the highest office in Brazil on October 28, 2018. He was elected in a landslide, as he got 55.1% of the popular vote against his opponent Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro became president in a tumultuous time in Brazilian history, the government had been rocked by corruption scandals and the economy was in a state of turmoil. However, Bolsonaro has not been the change that Brazil needs to uplift its economy and state of politics. In fact, he is the antithesis of what Brazil and South America need—as a continent that has been showcasing and reaping the benefits of state-induced socialism. His election platform ran on promises of crackdowns on crime and corruption and a longing for a more powerful military, a campaign reminiscent of other hardline leaders like Robert Duterte in the Philippines. Bolsonaro has even been dubbed “the Brazilian Trump” by others (BBC, 2018).
“The Brazilian Trump”
His far-right tendencies and controversial opinions have been present throughout his career as a public official. When he served as a congressman he was passionate about issues like protecting the rights of citizens to carry firearms and was still tough on crime saying that “A policeman who doesn’t kill is not a policeman.” He has also made some racist statements about the indigenous Brazilian population and Quilombos, who are of Afro-Brazilian descent essentially saying that both ethnic groups were lazy (Aljazeera, 2018).
Not only does Bolsonaro hold frightening beliefs, but he also strangely reminisces the military dictatorship of Brazil’s past, even going as far to call it “glorious.” Unfortunately, he has even gone so far as to attempt to rewrite the history around the beginning of the 1964 coup, wherein a military dictatorship was established. While internationally it has been recognized that in 1964 Joao Goulart was forcibly removed in a coup d’etat to be replaced with a 21-year- military dictatorship, the Bolsonaro administration is claiming that military rule was a “democratic regime of force”, according to the Independent (The Independent, 2019). Furthermore, Bolsonaro himself reversed an eight-year ban on celebrating the military coup, allowing a minority of Brazilians to honor it. Building on to that, Brazil’s education minister Ricardo Velez is attempting to change schoolchildren’s textbooks to convey the true idea of Brazilian history during this time period.
Bolsonaro’s loving sentiments about Brazil’s military dictatorship of the past is unsettling, and elements of it are seeming it repeat itself in his administration. Plenty of Brazilians still remember this period in time very clearly, one such man is Jose Carlos Giannini who spent nearly a decade in jail due to the fact that he belonged to the National Liberation Action, a communists guerilla group, and can still recall of savag tortue sessions of perceived leftists. Even though Bolsonaro is verbally denying plans to lead Brazil back into a military dictatorship, he does explicitly state that “what Brazil needs is a government with authority but without authoritarianism”(Guardian, 2018). However, taking into consideration his overtly racist comments, and his alarming nostalgia for the military dictatorship, it’s hard to believe that the future of his administration is one that will be a model for democracy and the rights of people. Instead, it seems as if it will continue on the path that it is on with remnants of the military dictatorship as its defining element.