With the slogan “Brazil above everything, God above everyone”, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro (Social Liberal Party) won the highly controversial and polarizing elections with 55% of votesand is about to take office on January 1th 2019.
Once the sixth largest economy in the world in 2011, even ahead of the United Kingdom, Brazil saw itself in five years decreasing to the ninth position of the world’s biggest economies in 2016. Caught by corruption scandals, increasing public violence, economic recession and a crisis of representation, Brazilians recently decided to put an end to the thirteen years of the leftist Workers’ Party government and elected a conservative, right-wing president.
However, the path to victory was a true challenge for Brazilian democracy, once the elections were marked by successive attacks on both sides, the polarization of conflicting ideologies, the emergence of fake news, and even a stabbing attack on Bolsonaro which almost led him to death.
The 63-year-old former army captain and the congressman has a political trajectory marked by controversial positions on women, homosexuals, blacks and human rights, and repeated expressions of support for the military regime. Bolsonaro has a strong disdain for communism, and has often been called a “Brazilian Trump”. He praises family values, an anti-abortion, and a pro-gun agenda, the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility and a free-market economy.
It can be considered that Bolsonaro won the elections based mainly on two factors: a rejection of the establishment, the political class in general as he introduces himself as an outsider; and an “anti Workers’ Party climate”, a rejection of the party itself and the figure of former President Lula, now jailed after being condemned for corruption. Bolsonaro represents the growth of a right-wing wave and a revolt against “traditional politics” in Brazil, fueled by the corruption scandals investigated by the Car Wash Operation; he rejects fitting the politically correct, self-censored speech, saying loudly what people would then think silently: opposition to racial quotas in universities, to human rights activists considered by him as “criminals defenders” and so on.
An interesting fact about this elections was its highly internet-based character. In Brazil, television campaign advertising has always played a major role in public influence. According to the electoral law, the time for radio and TV advertising is distributed according to the size of the parties: 90% allocated proportionally to the number of deputies elected by the coalition in 2014 and 10% equally divided among the legends registered in Brazil.
This way, owing to the fact that Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party was a small one, he had seconds of radio and TV advertising; so social media became the turning point for the elections. Despite a great deal of fake news promoted by supporters from both sides, Bolsonaro managed to break down the big traditional parties, which had most of the advertising time, and make his fame among the public.
Social media became even more relevant for Bolsonaro after his stabbing attack: as he didn’t show up for debates on television, his militancy occurred mainly through Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. The result: he has now been elected the 38º President of Brazil, defeating the candidate who had by far most of the TV advertising time, and the Social Liberal Party went from being a small one in Congress to become the second largest bench, with Deputies from many States of the Federation being elected.
Bolsonaro’s ministerial composition
With a government plan based on liberal economic principles, Bolsonaro promises to de-bureaucratize the country by reducing the number of ministries, stop state interference in citizens’ lives, and secure the right of private property. For that, the newly-elected president has up to now nominated some figures to compound his government, mainly names outside politics.
For the “Super” Ministry of the Economy – a fusion of the Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management and the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade – Bolsonaro has picked Paulo Guedes. The economist has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, considered a reference to liberal economic thought in the world. He has never held public office, and among his objectives are a free-market society, with a foreign trade regardless of ideologies and based on bilateral relations, in which Mercosur will not be a priority.
For the “Super” Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Sérgio Moro has been picked. The federal judge gained international fame for conducting the worldly-awarded anticorruption Car Wash Operation, which has resulted so far in prisons for important politicians – including an ex-president symbol of the Workers’ Party – and billions returned to the public treasury. Moro accepted Bolsonaro’s invitation under the promise of “total freedom”; for most Brazilians, the judge has become a “national hero” against corruption. Moro also took part in a money laundering program at the Harvard Law School in 1998.
For the Ministry of Science and Technology, the name picked was Marcos Pontes. He is an Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel, an aeronautic engineer, and astronaut who became the first South American and the first Lusophone to go into space. Pontes is a NASA Space Shuttle Mission Specialist and attended the Naval Postgraduate School of the US Navy in 1998.
For the Ministry of Defense, General Augusto Heleno was picked. The military graduated in 1969 from the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (AMAN) – the equivalent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – and was the first military commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission In Haiti (UNSTAMIH), composed of 2,366 military personnel and 2,533 police, supported by international civilian personnel, a local civilian staff and United Nations Volunteers.
The return of the military
Concerns have arisen as for the strong military composition of Bolsonaro’s government. His own vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, is a retired Brazilian Army General also graduated from AMAN. However, as far as criticism goes, it is quite undeniable that Bolsonaro has been able to gather a highly qualified ministerial crew.
What happened in this election, in fact, was the high degree of renewal of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate for the Federal-level legislature, and the Legislative Assembly for the state-level legislature. A lot of outsiders were elected, such as a range of police officers, delegates, militaries, journalists and lawyers, and even a prince: Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Bragança, a descendant of the Brazilian Royal Family originated from the Portuguese, and from Bolsonaro’s party.
Bolsonaro and International Affairs
Bolsonaro’s campaign was strongly based on heavy criticism upon Maduro’s Venezuela and North Korean communism, and a tightening of ties with Trump and Netanyahu.
Just after Bolsonaro’s official victory, Trump wrote on Twitter: “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won his race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call wished him congrats!”.
National Security Adviser John Bolton also commented on Bolsonaro, saying “The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance”.
As for Israel, just like Trump did, Bolsonaro has declared its will to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Bolsonaro has declared on Twitter: “As stated during the campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we respect it”, to what Netanyahu wrote, “I congratulate my friend Brazilian President-Elect, Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem, a historic, correct and exciting step!”.
Apart from that, in regard to Cuba, Bolsonaro has threatened to cut relations with the country. He also criticized the “More Doctors” program built by the previous Workers’ Party government, in which 11,420 Cuban doctors work in poor and remote areas in Brazil. Bolsonaro stated that 75% of the doctors’ salaries were paid directly to the Cuban government.
The role of our young generation
Turmoil has been the word for this year’s elections in Brazil. For months, the country was highly divided among those against Bolsonaro, accusing him of being sexist, homophobic etc, and those in his favor, mainly against the Workers’ Party, but also evangelicals etc.
Elections have passed and a new president will take office, and it is his duty to rule for every Brazilian, respecting the Constitution and the rights consolidated. His big task, however, is going to be the unification of a divided nation. For this purpose, it is relevant to highlight that what matters is the future of our nation, regardless of the politician elected.
Young people, therefore, have the important role of gathering towards a single goal: improve Brazil for all its citizens. As written in a previous article, “Giving up on politics would be like giving the corrupts a carte blanche to rule our country whichever way applies best to their private interests”.
The present and the future belongs to the youth, and traditional phenomena have already accompanied this, as in the case of the use of social media in the elections. Youngsters have at their disposal many means to access information and communication, and all of that must be used to inspect our governors, charge for interests of the community, and claim for rights. Politics is a tool through which society can benefit as a whole, but for that to happen, it must be used correctly.
Therefore, may we all contribute to a united country, in which the utmost and ultimate interest is improving lives. Young people must debate, propose, question, and encourage older generations to do the same.