Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right populist who has advocated, among other things, jailing political opponents, killing and torturing suspected criminals, and limiting Brazil’s gun restrictions, was elected President of Brazil on Sunday night, besting leftist Worker’s Party candidate Fernando Haddad. According to the New York Times, Bolsonaro had 55.7 percent of the vote to Haddad’s 44 percent, with 88 percent of votes counted.
Bolsonaro’s rise to power has been frightening, to say the least, considering the former army captain’s propensity toward authoritarianism, in addition to his embrace of racism, and violence, which has earned him comparisons to both Donald Trump and Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte. There’s been much concern that a Bolsonaro presidency would see the return of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which ruled the nation from 1964 to 1985. Bolsonaro has made statements celebrating the former military government and advocated for sweeping reform via “civil war” and “killing.” He said his opponents would be “be banished from the homeland,” calling their removal, “a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.”
He has also advocated for rolling back legal protections for Afro-Brazilians, using rhetoric so incendiary he was charged with hate speech, according to the New York Times, though the charges have since been dismissed.
Then, there’s Bolsonaro’s frank and unrepentant sexism and homophobia, which earlier this year inspired women in Brazil to launch an #EleNao (#NeverHim) social media campaign that hoped to spread the word against Bolsonaro, according to the BBC. Bolsonaro once told Brazilian Congresswoman Maria do Rosario “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it,” and that she was “ugly,”; he has said if he saw two men kissing, he’d “beat them up,” and he once claimed homosexuality was do to a “lack of beating.”
Jezebel recently spoke with black feminist scholar and Brazil resident Gabriela Monteiro, who told us the following:
The Brazilian elite hasn’t forgiven the advances we’ve made in terms of reducing inequalities in the country. Although [former Brazilian president and candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva]’s government had also benefited entrepreneurs and agribusiness, it’s undeniable that we had a series of public policies never seen in Brazil. The policy of quotas for black people to enter public universities, for example, is an affirmative policy of redress for the historical disadvantages faced by black people in Brazil. The presence of quota students has always made the white elite very uncomfortable.
Bolsonaro has already stated that he would never be attended by one of our black doctors. We had excellent public policies like the Bolsa Família [a financial assistance program], which took countless Brazilian families out of misery and became an international benchmark. Lula and Dilma also prevented the privatization of Brazilian oil, and with that, they raised powerful enemies.
Bolsonaro belongs to a small party that grew in these elections, leveraged by his image. The Workers’ Party has made many mistakes, but it isn’t because of these mistakes that the Party and their leaders have suffered this witch hunt. On the contrary, it is precisely because they touched the neuralgic spots of Brazilian society, like guaranteeing the presence of blacks in universities, rights for domestic workers, and a minimum of dignity for the working class, the rural population.
Monteiro also told us Bolsonaro used misinformation spread through social media and WhatsApp to “confuse public discussion and gain followers,” and turn Brazilians against the ruling Workers’ Party. One such piece of misinformation was that Bolsonaro’s opponents had public school teachers indoctrinate young children with “gay kits” that would encourage them to be gay;
“There is a cycle that feeds back on misinformation, fear, and hate,” she said. “Many people are insecure about the future, and they have bought an easy version of blaming a single party for all the problems in Brazil.”
The aforementioned Lula was supposed to represent the Workers’ Party against Bolsonaro, but was barred from running, since he is currently in jail serving a 12-year sentence for corruption.
Bolsonaro’s election is one more horrifying checkmark on the recent worldwide rise of fascism. “This is a really radical shift,” Scott Mainwaring, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, told the New York Times. “I can’t think of a more extremist leader in the history of democratic elections in Latin America who has been elected.”