By Sam Tilley
The election of Brazil’s newest President, Jair Bolsonaro, promises to have momentous repercussions for regional and global politics. Ever since the overthrowing of the military dictatorship in 1985, Brazilian politics has been dogged by accusations of fraud and impeachments; pointedly the last three Presidents have been forced out of office by allegations of corruption. Bolsonaro is inheriting a country that has been on the edge of complete political collapse for numerous years and faces an uphill battle to unite the country around his somewhat controversial agenda.
For a candidate described as “Brazil’s Trump”, there does appear to be a lean towards the US President’s foreign policies. Bolsonaro has already pledged his support to move the Brazilian embassy in Tel Aviv to the disputed-Israeli capital of Jerusalem; an act that led to widespread international condemnation when the US made the same move earlier this year. Bolsonaro has also supported a hard-line position when it comes to dealing with Brazil’s problematic neighbour Venezuela. There is already a growing refugee crisis on the Brazilian-Venezuelan border and, judging by the rhetoric that Bolsonaro has deployed in his election campaign, any solution to this problem would undoubtedly come at the expense of Venezuela. Previously, Brazil’s left-leaning Presidents have had frosty relations with the US but, with both current Presidents as self-described pragmatists, watch this space for this relationship to become decidedly warmer as both countries look to solidify their presence in Latin America.
Domestically, Bolsonaro looks to be taking Brazil back “to the roots of religion, of character, of national pride,”. To the consternation of many, this will likely come at the expense of environmentalism and social justice. Throughout the campaign, the President-elect has been condemned for using both racist and homophobic language and it is likely that party policies regarding the teaching of gender identities and LGBTQ+ issues will be rolled back along religious teachings. In addition, it is feared that, due to Bolsonaro’s roots in the mining and agricultural industries, any energy policies will nullify previous attempts at environmental protection. Bolsonaro even threatened to take Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement but, to the relief of environmentalists worldwide, he has seemingly backtracked on this promise.
Bolsonaro’s campaign was characterised by the mantra to “put Brazil first”. This will come as a relief to many ordinary Brazilians in a country where inflation and crime rates have slowly risen year-by-year. In a country that has an international reputation for gang crime and muggings, many voters are hoping that the socially-conservative policies of Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal party will lead to a sharp decrease in crime, an outcome that has alluded Brazil’s Presidents since democracy was re-established in 1985.