Make Brazil Great Again? Jair Bolsonaro and Right-Wing Populism

Annika Larson, Deputy Commentary Editor

On October 7, 2018, members of the far right came together to support the candidate they felt was all too needed in a government steeped in corruption. Jair Bolsonaro victory of Brazil has awakened a sleeping giant. Citizens are tired of a left-leaning establishment, The Workers Party, and they won’t be silenced anymore.

 Bolsonaro has a number of problematic opinions. He has degraded and openly condemned members of the LGBTQ community saying, “in Brazil we don’t like homosexuals…no father is proud of having a gay son” (BBC).

His views on race are also quite inflammatory. In an interview with Band, a Brazilian News station, he said that there was no chance of his sons falling in love with black women because “my sons are well raised.”

Additionally, he said that Afro Brazilians, “don’t do anything…I don’t even think they’re good for procreating anymore.”

Not only is he pro-torture, but he has openly praised the former military dictatorship. This only scratches the surface of how outrageously out of line his views can be.

 But this kind of rhetoric has found a home in the hearts of many Brazilians who are tired of the corruption of establishment party, The Workers Party. Part of the reason so many people support Bolsonaro is simply because he’s a new face.

George Packer of The New Yorker reveals that populism can “cleanse the political air.”

The current president, Michel Temer, has been charged with corruption numerous times and the former president, Lula da Silva, is currently serving a 12 year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Bolsonaro is not particularly attached to any one party, and his far-right agenda brings issues to the table that have previously been ignored.

Many of his supporters come from low-income backgrounds and industries that have been left behind by globalization. He is tough on crime and leads a populist base. In a government as saturated with fraud as Brazil’s is, it’s not hard to see why a candidate like Bolsonaro would thrive.

But there is no question that comments and stances like the ones Bolsonaro have made are highly problematic. They can result in the rise of hate crimes and violence, reversing progressive social change and putting minorities at risk.

His supporters have attacked and assaulted people who don’t support Bolsonaro. According to BBC, people have been stabbed, threatened and assaulted by far-right supporters.

 Bolsonaro’s election signifies a turning point in Brazil’s political landscape. His term begins in January. Time can only tell how this will change Brazil’s culture and alter the way the world views leaders with  offensive rhetoric.