Written by: Samantha Mintz-Agnello
In late October, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. A member of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party (SLP), the far-right congressman won 55.2% of the votes and will take office on January 1, 2019. Bolsonaro has made racist comments about Brazil’s black and mixed raced citizens, offensive comments about women and the LGBTQ community, has denied climate change, and plans to relax Brazil’s gun laws. Referred to as the Trump of Tropics, Bolsonaro’s presidency is equally as terrifying as it is problematic. His policies and his ideas for his country will not only hurt Brazil, but will be detrimental to the international political scene.
With a leader as problematic as Bolsonaro, it might be confusing or unclear as to how he won the election. In fact, his win was not that surprising, as he polled well in the months leading up to the election with wealthy and educated voters. Bolsonaro’s victory can be credited by his claim to change problems in Brazil, such as rising crime and political and economic failure. He offered the exact opposite of a typical Brazilian leader, which was appealing to voters. Furthermore, his campaign relied heavily on the concept of defending freedom. As a former military and working-class man, he related to the average Brazilian.
Many fear about the freedom of speech and expression under Bolsonaro’s reign. In late October, there were reports on social media that over 20 universities in Brazil were targeted on “ideological grounds.” There were stories of military police invasions, seizing of teaching materials, and censorship in the classrooms, specifically targeting anti-fascist course materials. Many believe these attacks are a result of Bolsonaro’s campaign and election. His anti-progressive policies have brought on a resurgence of suppression and repression in Brazil. In 2018, students, citizens, and educational institutions should be able to criticize the government and political tactics. Electing Bolsonaro proves Brazil is moving backward by preventing freedom of speech and expression.
As a supporter of President Trump, it is no surprise that Bolsonaro has preached his fair share of offensive comments. In 2014, after a heated argument with congresswoman Maria Rosario where she said he was promoting rape, Bolsonaro attacked her. “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it,” he said. Sound familiar? In 2016, when women came forward and said Trump sexually assaulted him, he suggested some of these women were not attractive enough to be sexually assaulted by him. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice. That I can tell you. You don’t know. That would not be my first choice,” he said.
Additionally, Bolsonaro has taken an extreme stance on the environment and climate change. First, he expressed plans to put a highway through the Amazon Rainforest and cut back on environmental regulations to protect the rainforest and the environment at large. In addition to deforestation, the animals that inhabit these areas could be potentially be harmed or even killed. Additionally, he indicated that he will quit the Paris Agreement. Although he later made statements that he will keep Brazi in the agreement, the fact that he would threaten withdrawal from the agreement shows he has no understanding or regard for the environment and ways to tackle climate change. He referred to climate change as a Marxist hoax implemented by China to hinder western development and a ploy to scare people. Obviously, climate change is backed by scientists and hard evidence, but he sees it as a political tool and not a serious concern. Furthermore, he selected Ernesto Araújo as Brazil’s foreign minister. Araújo, like Bolsonaro, denies the existence of climate change and says it is a gambit from the left. Choosing climate-denying staff shows Bolsonaro’s lack of knowledge on the situation and his dismissal of the situation.
Electing leaders like Donald Trump paved the way for people like Jair Bolsonaro to rise to power. Although there have been hateful and offensive leaders throughout history across the world, electing Trump in the United States in 2016 normalizes the leadership of racist, homophobic, sexist leaders who create hostility and violence. While Brazilians will be more directly impacted by his harmful agenda, his environmental stance carries the possibility of international turmoil.