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20/9/2018 Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace - Brazil’s presidential election

Brazil’s presidential election

Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace


He would make a disastrous president

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20/9/2018 Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace - Brazil’s presidential election

Print edition | Leaders


Sep 20th 2018

“GOD is Brazilian,” goes a saying that became the title of a popular lm. Brazil’s
beauty, natural wealth and music often make it seem uniquely blessed. But these
days Brazilians must wonder whether, like the deity in the lm, God has gone on
holiday.
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the world’s 20 most violent.


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The national elections next month give Brazil the chance to start afresh. Yet if, as Manage subscription

seems all too possible, victory goes to Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, they
risk making e er thing orse Mr Bolsonaro Get
hose middle name a free special
is Messias or report
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20/9/2018 Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace - Brazil’s presidential election
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risk making everything worse. Mr Bolsonaro, whose middle name a free special
is Messias, or report
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“Messiah”, promises salvation; in fact, he is a menace to Brazil and to Latinour report on 'Lifelong
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Mr Bolsonaro is the latest in a parade of populists—from Donald Trump in America,
to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and a left-right coalition featuring Matteo
Each week,
Salvini in Italy. In Latin America, over
Andrés oneLópez
Manuel million
Obrador, a left-wing
rebrand, will take o subscribers trust
ce in Mexico in us to help
December. them would be a
Mr Bolsonaro
make sense of the world.
particularly nasty addition to the club (see Brie ng). Were he to win, it might put
the very survival of democracy
Join them.inSubscribe
Latin America’s largest
today and country at risk.
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Brazilian bitterness plus receive a free notebook.

Populists draw on similarorgrievances.


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A failing free articles
economy is one—and in Brazil the
failure has been catastrophic. In the worst recession in its history, GDP per person
shrank by 10% in 2014-16 and has yet to recover. The unemployment rate is 12%.
The whi of elite self-dealing and corruption is another grievance—and in Brazil it
is a stench. The interlocking investigations known as Lava Jato (Car Wash) have
discredited the entire political class. Scores of politicians are under investigation.
Michel Temer, who became Brazil’s president in 2016 after his predecessor, Dilma
Rousse , was impeached on unrelated charges, has avoided trial by the supreme
court only because congress voted to spare him. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, another
former president, was jailed for corruption and disquali ed from running in the
election. Brazilians tell pollsters that the words which best sum up their country
are “corruption”, “shame” and “disappointment”.

Mr Bolsonaro has exploited their fury brilliantly. Until the Lava Jato scandals, he
was an undistinguished seven-term congressman from the state of Rio de Janeiro.
He has a long history of being grossly o ensive. He said he would not rape a
congresswoman because she was “very ugly”; he said he would prefer a dead son to
a gay one; and he suggested that people who live in settlements founded by escaped
slaves are fat and lazy. Suddenly that willingness to break taboos is being taken as
evidence that he is di erent from the political hacks in the capital city, Brasília.
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To Brazilians desperate to rid themselves of corrupt politicians and murderous
drug dealers, Mr Bolsonaro presents
Join them. himself
Subscribe as aand
today no-nonsense
enjoy great sheri . An
savings atism ith economic liberalism to
e angelical Christian he mi es social conser
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20/9/2018 Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace - Brazil’s presidential election
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evangelical Christian, he mixes social conservatism with economic liberalism, to
plus receive a free notebook.
which he has recently converted. His main economic adviser is Paulo Guedes, who
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was educated at the University of Chicago, a bastion of free-market ideas. He
favours the privatisation of all Brazil’s state-owned companies and “brutal”
simpli cation of taxes. Mr Bolsonaro proposes to slash the number of ministries
from 29 to 15, and to put generals in charge of some of them.

His formula is winning support. Polls give him 28% of the vote and he is the clear
front-runner in a crowded eld for the rst round of the elections on October 7th.
This month he was stabbed in the stomach at a rally, which put him in hospital.
That only made him more popular—and shielded him from closer scrutiny by the
media and his opponents. If he faces Fernando Haddad, the nominee of Lula’s left-
wing Workers’ Party (PT) in the second round at the end of the month, many
middle- and upper-class voters, who blame Lula and the PT above all for Brazil’s
troubles, could be driven into his arms.

The Pinochet temptation


They should not be fooled. In addition to his illiberal social views, Mr Bolsonaro
has a worrying admiration for dictatorship. He dedicated his vote to impeach Ms
Rousse to the commander of a unit responsible for 500 cases of torture and 40
murders under the military regime, which governed Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Mr
Bolsonaro’s running-mate is Hamilton Mourão, a retired general, who last year,
while in uniform, musedEach
that the armyover
week, mightone
intervene to solve Brazil’s problems.
million
subscribers trust us to help them
make sense of the world.
Mr Bolsonaro’s answer to crime is, in e ect, to kill more criminals—though, in
2016, police killed overJoin
4,000 people.
them. Subscribe today and enjoy great
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Latin America has experimented
plusbefore
receivewith
a free mixing
notebook.authoritarian politics and
or Sign
liberal economics. Augusto up to continue
Pinochet, readingruler
a brutal three free articles between 1973 and 1990,
of Chile
was advised by the free-marketeer “Chicago boys”. They helped lay the ground for
today’s relative prosperity in Chile, but at terrible human and social cost. Brazilians
have a fatalism about corruption, summed up in the phrase “rouba, mas faz” (“he
steals, but he acts”). They should not fall for Mr Bolsonaro—whose dictum might be
“they tortured, but they acted”. Latin America has known all sorts of strongmen,
most of them awful. For recent proof, look only to the disasters in Venezuela and
Nicaragua.

Mr Bolsonaro might not be able to convert his populism into Pinochet-style


dictatorship even if he wanted to. But Brazil’s democracy is still young. Even a
irtation with authoritarianism is worrying. All Brazilian presidents need a
coalition in congress to pass legislation. Mr Bolsonaro has few political friends. To
govern, he could be driven to degrade politics still further, potentially paving the
way for someone still worse.

Instead of falling for the vain promises of a dangerous politician in the hope that he
can solve all their problems, Brazilians should realise that the task of healing their
democracy and reforming their economy will be neither easy nor quick. Some
progress has been made—such as a ban on corporate donations to parties and a
freeze on federal spending. A lot more reform is needed. Mr Bolsonaro is not the
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This article appeared in the Leaders make
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Brazil’s presidential election


Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s latest menace
He would make a disastrous president

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