*Favorite story from TMN reporter Daniel Saenz for the 2018 fall semester — originally posted October 15, 2018*
STORY BY DANIEL SAENZ
Recently, Brazil has started its election cycle. This comes following years of political turmoil that saw the impeachment of President Dilma Roussef of the Workers Party in 2016 and the eventual disqualification and arrest of Lula Da Silva from the same party recently this year. Both Roussef and Silva were removed on corruption charges. The arrest changed the entire political landscape as Da Silva was considered the main contender. As a result, the election was up for grabs and out of this turmoil arose Jair Bolsnaro, a right-wing populist.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board just put out a statement endorsing the populist candidate where they called him the “Brazilian Swamp Drainer”. “After years of corruption and recession, millions of Brazilians think an outsider is exactly what the country needs. Maybe they know more than the world’s scolds,” the Journal said. So what are people upset about? Is this just political correctness or are Bolsonaro’s detractors raising legitimate concerns?
Bolsonaro has stated that he preferred for his son to die in an accident than to be gay as he would be incapable of loving a gay son in an interview with Playboy Magazine. Another inflaming example of Bolsnaro’s beliefs arose after dealing with criticism from a female colleague in Congress who Bolonaro claimed had called him a rapist. Bolsonaro had the following to say about his colleague due to this alleged row.
“She doesn’t deserve to be raped because she is very ugly. She’s not my type,” he said. “I would never rape her. I’m not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it.”
Bolsnaro’s views on race relations also leave something to be desired. When speaking about a black settlement that was founded by slaves in Brazil, he remarked, “They do nothing. They are not even good enough for procreation.”
When later speaking on black activists, he called them “animals that belong in the zoo.” What about rule of law? After all, he has been campaigning on ending corruption and cracking down on crime. It turns out that has a special meaning. Bolsonaro has openly stated that the brutal military regime did not kill enough people and that the military dictatorship from 1964-1985 was “a glorious 20 years of order and progress.”
This is the same regime that tortured countless leftists, LGBT, and women on a whim. So, the message being broadcast is quite clear from this candidate. Everyone who is not like him is beneath him and deserves cruelty and violence. Several voices on the ground have commented on the turmoil.
Bruna Fortunato, a Brazilian and fellow intern who I met during my stint in Egypt, commented on the reality of being both black and LGBT during the surge of Bolsonaro.
“He is only a reflection of the ignorant and close-minded people we have here, a voice for what they already think,” said Fortunato. “I am extremely scared for my life and the rest of the community, especially for kids and teenagers who don’t live in an accepting family. We are moving right back to 1964 as he has already declared we’d be leaving the UN if was elected. It only goes downhill from there.”
Maya Rodriguez, another Brazilian intern who I met in Egypt, had similar thoughts.
“Brazilians are tired of corruption despite the fact that he is corrupt and nobody cares. They’re tired of the lies and tired of the same government (the opposite party had been in government for 12 years),” said Rodriguez. “They see hope in Bolsonaro: he is Christian, he’s in favor of the ‘traditional family’, he wants to bring patriotism back (his phrase is “Brazil above everything and God above everyone”), he’s got a very easy speech and a lot of people feel represented by him, they say he’s gonna change the country.”
“He doesn’t even understand the economy and has said the president doesn’t need to know about it and that he can ask his future finance minister,” Rodriguez continues. “He also praises one of the main torturers from the former dictatorship. In the last 10 days, 50 cases of violence have been reported because of Bolsonaro’s supporters (most of the victims are women and LGBT people) so yes, we are scared.”
In the first round of the elections, Bolsonaro won the overwhelming majority with 40 percent of the vote. Plus, the business class is allying itself with him. Given the history of big businesses siding with dictatorships in Latin America and the destabilizing effects of this alliance on this region, such fears of a Bolsonaro presidency are completely warranted.