BELLA BLUMENSCHEIN ’22
For the longest time, Brazil’s political landscape has been chaotic. No one thought it could get any worse when former President Dilma was impeached and Lula went to jail. That was until Jair Bolsonaro became a possible candidate for the Presidency and almost fifty-percent of the population voted for him in the first voting round. As an army captain during the military dictatorship, he freely expresses his endorsement of a time in which human rights were extensively abused and freedom of speech was suppressed. It is frightening to see a political figure gaining so much power when his speeches are being compared to Hitler’s and Trump’s. Even Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right president, thinks of him as “too extreme”. Forty-nine of the biggest newspapers in twenty-one nations have expressed their concern about the danger Brazil is facing during the current presidential election.
Some of Bolsonaro’s main proposals are related to the reduction of violence, which he plans to do by loosening gun laws and allowing civilians to shoot while on patrol. If it was up to him, “all men would have a fire gun at home”. In a country with one of the highest homicide rates, in which people already die simply for being poor, black, women, gay, or transgender I do not see how anyone besides straight, rich, white men could benefit from this. But then again, who else matters?
Among the other thirteen ministries, he defends the extinction of the Ministry of Culture, which is currently responsible for the preservation and expression of the Brazilian literature, art, folklore, and historical patrimonies. The remaining ministries would be ruled by military generals. He also argues that men and women should receive different salaries, considers removing Brazil from the UN, and is supportive of Trump’s immigration policies. But these are only a few of his proposals for making Brazil great (again). With all the repercussions in the media, a lot of people consider him as a viable option to rule a country.
His economic proposals are favored by investors and promise the reform Brazil needs. They include, for example, the privatization of state-run enterprises, giving the central bank more independence. Driven by the fact that his economic advisor is Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-educated free-market enthusiast, many believe that, if he wins, Brazil’s currency will appreciate and stock markets will rise. He intends to maintain the economic tripod established by FHC which would lower the inflation and provide economic flexibility. However, there are still those who believe that even his economic propositions are shallow and worrying.
It is understandable, while still troublesome, that the despair consuming the population is leading to such extreme measures. For the last twelve years, Brazil has been ruled by the Workers Party (PT), a political party born in 1980 in a left movement that dominated Latin America. Today, many members are being investigated and convicted for the involvement of drug cartels and decades of corruption, besides being mainly responsible for the economic crisis and mass unemployment we were left with. The second favorite candidate is a member of their party, and a relevant percentage of the population is willing to do anything to take them down. It is a matter of picking which candidate will be the least harmful to the country, and there is a clear polarization between those who have become obsessed with taking a political party down, and those who argue that “to PT I have critics, to fascism I have repulsion”. By prioritizing an illusion of safety and economic prosperity, people choose to become blind to the tolerance of serious human rights violations, and to the possibility of an authoritarian government. It feels like history repeating itself and now the world worries, watching one of the biggest nations in America give more power to the far-right political parties that put in danger a whole democracy.