It’s déja vu all over again! The “Trump of the Tropics” might become Brazil’s new president soon. He is former military captain, Jair Bolsonaro.
No candidate won 51 percent majority in presidential elections, October 7, 2018. A run-off will be held October 28 between Jair, right wing Social Liberal Party, and runner-up, Fernando Haddad, former mayor of Sao Paulo, leading the Labor Party.
Why the comparison with Trump? Jair is racist. In this Latin American country with historic African ties, 41 percent Mulatto and seven percent Black, he recently proclaimed: “Afro-Brazilians do nothing; they are not even good enough to reproduce.” (David Edwards, Goal.com, 13 Oct 18). He is sexist, grossly misogynist, noting one legislator was not worthy of being raped because “she was too ugly.” He opposes equal pay for women (Camila Costa, BBC, 8 Oct 18). He is homophobic: he opined he would kill his own son, should he “be homosexual.” Notice a pattern?
Jair is militarist, proud of Brazil’s former military dictatorship. His running-mate is a retired General, who calls for a military coup if he does not win. Jair, himself, claims “elections are rigged.” He “will not accept the results, if I lose” (Anthony Boadle, Reuters, World News, 28 Sep 18) Again, notice a pattern? Moreover, he lamented the former military dictatorship (1964-1985) should “have killed 30,000 more.”
Jair’s son is involved in his campaign, being pictured with Steve Bannon and soliciting his advice (The Guardian, 11 Oct 18). Bolsonaro denied the photos, the connection, crying “Fake News!” Patterns, patterns. It seems so much like here at home, with those in power (or almost in dictatorial power) pleading: “who ya’ gonna believe? Me, or your lying eyes?” Need any more proof of the striking, alarming parallels? Bolsonaro is evangelical (oh, you guessed?), whereas most of Brazil is Catholic and/or believers/practitioners in Afro-Brazilian customs.
Why should we care? Brazil is an important country. Brazil is the fifth largest geographical country in the world, larger than the continental United States. It is the fifth largest in population. It is the eighth leading economic power (GDP and purchasing power). It has the largest deposits of iron ore in the world, and possesses major, new off-shore oil deposits. However, the wealth is, to make an understatement, unequally divided.
The rich elites, many who support Bolsonaro, cannot abide the gains made by the middle classes and the poor. Presidents Lula (Ignacio da Silva and Rousseff (deposed by the military) had raised at least 21 million people out of poverty. Brazil was on a roll (but overspent on the World Cup, 2014 and Olympics, 2016). Resulting inequalities (and corruption, also involving oil monies) have led to more frustration, more crime.
Jair (like AMLO in Mexico) has made crime and violence his top issues, bringing in support from unexpected sectors. Some wealthy sport’s heroes (much like Kanye’s fawning support of Trump) have incongruously spoken out in favor of the right wing “solution” to Brazil’s challenges. The irony is, Brazil, having emerged from a vicious military dictatorship in the last century, having had a few decades of democracy and progress, now may be faced with a return to an authoritarian past.
Brazilians have always been optimistic. They have always believed “Brazil is too big to fall into the abyss.” Brazilians’ commitment to civil government and the rule of law is, once again, being threatened. If only the U.S. leadership could set the example to help them maintain that positive pattern, rather than sink into a pattern of fear, phobias and political divisions. Indeed, if only we had such leadership to help us to heal our own differences, rather than to exacerbate them! If “Deus e Brasileriro” (God is a Brazilian), as previously hopeful Brazilians believed, may He help them and may He help us.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows far right Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. He will compete against Fernando Haddad of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party) in the October 28, 2018, elections. (Photo: Antonio Scorza/Agencia O Globo via AP)