The Prelude to Brazilian Election; Rise of the Brazilian Trump

Perspective By Aparaajita Pandey*

Brazilian Election

Bolsonaro's rhetoric also mirrors that of Trump. His comments about the indigenous people are extremely unsavoury and have been criticised and been labeled as racist in nature

The Lava Jato (Car Wash) Scandal, an economic recession, an impeachment, and a beloved leader put behind bars; Brazil has been at the receiving end of a series of unfortunate events for the past few years. The country hailed as a regional leader and constituting 43 percent of the total South American landmass today stands at the precipice of a national election. It is ravaged by corruption and stands today more divided than it has ever been in the last three decades. All of the societal, racial, economic, and religious distinctions of the Brazilian nation that had been sewed together with affirmative action and social assistance schemes have now come apart at the seams and the differences have become starker than they have been in a long time.

The spillover of the Lava Jato scandal led to not just the impeachment of the former President Ms. Dilma Rousseff, it also led most of the Brazilian politicians falling like dominos as most of them were implicated in corruption cases one after the other. A recent survey revealed that only 13 percent of Brazilians had faith in their democracy. As 7 October draws closer, Brazilians have started displaying their inclination towards their respective candidates. As racial and economic cleaves in society have become deeper, the country displays signs of tilt towards the far right. The inclination towards the right is by no means a uniquely Brazilian phenomenon; a global shift towards right wing populism has been exhibited by countries across Europe, Asia, and North America. Brazil is not aloof from the political rhetoric that vilifies immigrants and scoffs at political correctness — Trump like persona has found its appeal around the world and in Brazil. An ‘outsider’ who promises a complete restructuring of an outdated system, talks about restoring a glorious past, and is not afraid to call out the proverbial spade is no longer just the characteristics of the current American president, these have metamorphosed into populist caricature that is usually backed by the financially well to do majorities of a country.

Brazil seems to have found their Trump. As Brazil gets ready to elect governors and members to the legislatures in all of its 27 states, as well as a new president; the growing popularity of the 63 year old Jair Bolsonaro is indicative of the Brazil’s growing proclivity towards right wing nationalism. Bolsonaro is a self-proclaimed right wing nationalist who used to be a Captain in the Brazilian army. He echoes Trump in mannerisms and rhetoric and has also been in seeking council of the former Trump advisor Stephen K. Bannon. Bolsonaro almost mirroring Trump has been quick to attack media and has blamed socialist left leaning policies for the economic recession in the country. In a reality, where many Brazilians see no fundamental change in their political structure and believe that most politicians are set to contest and win again in the upcoming elections despite the corruption charges against them, Bolsonaro is being hailed as a messiah by his followers.

Bolsonaro’s rhetoric also mirrors that of Trump. His comments about the indigenous people are extremely unsavoury and have been criticised and been labeled as racist in nature; however, the Brazilian courts have acquitted Bolsanaro on accounts of racism and hate speech but has to be present in court to defend himself on accusations of slander and incitement to rape when he attacked a left leaning congress woman in 2014.

His rhetoric on immigrants is also akin to that of Trump. Bolsonaro has made his dislike for immigrants apparent and a similar wave of anti-immigration can be perceived in Brazil as it tightens measures against the lawful and unlawful entry of the Venezuelan immigrants. As Venezuela faces massive challenges of its own, the western hemisphere is experiencing the Venezuelan exodus of proportions analogous to that of the Syrian crisis. Brazil shares 2200 km long border with Venezuela and has deployed additional battalion of guards to stop immigrants from crossing over.

Bolsonaro has also denounced any support for the LGBTQ community comparing them to pedophiles. His supporters, however, labeled such statements as honest and representative of the common man, and which are meant to cut through the elite platitudes that are out of touch with Brazilian realities.

Bolsonaro, however, is not running unopposed. Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of Sao Paolo and a left leaning politician has emerged as a centre and centre-left candidate. Haddad, much like Rousseff, was found and encouraged to run for the President by the former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who is currently imprisoned on charges of corruption. Haddad has the advantage of being a seasoned politician and a former mayor of one of the biggest Brazilian cities. As the Workers Party (PT) candidate, Haddad is gaining ground in the pre election polls. It is being speculated that the Brazilian elections will be a battle between the left and the right.

Bolsonaro represents the populist right wing regimes that can be traced back to their fascist origins; Haddad represents a thought process that could be labeled as the antithesis of Bolsonaro. Brazil is in a precarious position where it could return to its authoritarian past or continue on the path of democratic-socialism. It could also settle into a condition of a restricted democracy. It is important to note whatever may be the outcome of this election, it will impact the rest of the Latin American. It will be interesting to see the path that Brazil takes and the influence it has on its neighbours.

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.