As if the world needed any more discouraging news, Brazilians have elected a pro-military fascist, Jair Bolsonaro, as their next president.
Bolsonaro easily defeated the uninspiring Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad in the Sunday electoral runoff by a tally of 55.5% to 44.5%, with 94% of the vote tallied.
The Guardian described Bolsonaro, 63, as a “far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist.” He’s also homophobic and racist. In fact, he sounds exactly like the current president of the United States, except that Bolsonaro actually served in the military that he so often praises.
In a televised acceptance speech, Bolsonaro promised to root out corruption and rid his country of leftist ideology. “We cannot continue flirting with communism...We are going to change the destiny of Brazil,” he said.
Across the country supporters took to the streets in celebration, accompanied by long and loud fireworks displays.
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Several world leaders and politicians tweeted their congratulations to Bolsonaro, the newspaper noted, including Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who said, “Even in #Brasile the citizens have sent the left packing!”
Human Rights Watch issued a lengthy statement noting that the organization would “closely monitor the rhetoric and actions of the Bolsonaro government.”
The statement included a laundry list of some of Bolsonaro’s more troubling behavior, including:
- Promises that he wouldn’t accept the election results unless he won
- Claims that he would shoot Workers Party supporters and make progressives leave the country
- Statements that Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) should have killed dissenters instead of only torturing them
- Promises to allow police to openly target suspected criminals with extrajudicial killings
- Comparisons of Afro-Brazilians to “cattle”
- Describing refugees as the “scum of the earth”
- Claiming he would rather his son die than be gay
- Telling a congresswoman he would not rape her because she is “ugly.”
Sounds like quite a bright future there, Brazil.
The parallels to Trump don’t end there. Bolsonaro was considered a long shot candidate at the start of his campaign. As The New York Times observed:
Over the past two years, while many of Brazil’s traditional political parties and powerful kingmakers were busy defending themselves against corruption allegations stemming from the investigation known as Lava Jato, Mr. Bolsonaro flew around the country, drumming up support, particularly among young men, and in comparatively wealthier and whiter parts of the country.
While rivals spent small fortunes on marketing firms, video editors and consultants, Mr. Bolsonaro relied primarily on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the instant messaging service WhatsApp to communicate with voters and expand his base.
Supporters created hundreds of WhatsApp groups, the newspaper noted, in which content was widely shared that “often contained falsehoods and misleading content,” including attacks on his opponents.
One message falsely claimed that his opponents were encouraging schoolchildren to become gay, the Times said.
Yet, the majority of Brazilian voters are elated at the electoral outcome. They face a grinding economic crisis and see Bolsonaro as their salvation. They believe reports in the media that are critical of the former congressman are exaggerated.
What’s not exaggerated is the widespread suffering faced by many Brazilians.
In its Brazil 2018 economic survey, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that the country remains “one of the most unequal countries in the world,” with half of the population receiving 10% of total household incomes while the other half receives 90%. Men are paid 50% more than women, which is 10% higher than the OECD average. Poverty is highest among children. In 2015, a recession doubled unemployment figures, which peaked at nearly 14% last year.
Crime is also rampant. According to the Times, Brazil beat its own record for homicides last year, with 63,880 people murdered across the country. That’s a rate of 30.8 per 100,000 people, up from 29.9 in 2016. It is the equivalent of 175 deaths per day, the newspaper said.
All of this was the backdrop for Sunday’s electoral outcome. Rafael Gomes, a 34-year-old salesman and Bolsonaro supporter, told The Guardian: “I can see a better future for my son, better health, education and security, something we haven’t had for years.”