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Judi Lynn

(161,408 posts)
Sun Oct 7, 2018, 12:41 AM Oct 2018

Meet Brazil's Presidential Front-Runner, Jair Bolsonaro: Part Donald Trump, Part Rodrigo Duterte

By Jon Lee Anderson
3:32 P.M.

In the era of Donald Trump, domestic matters have taken center stage even more than usual for most Americans, and the rest of the world has mostly fallen off the wings. As a case in point, over the past week or so, while the country has been transfixed by the drama of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, America’s largest neighbor to the south, Brazil, has been lurching toward far-right authoritarianism. On Sunday, Brazil’s voters will elect a new President, and the man leading in the polls, a former Army captain named Jair Bolsonaro, is something like a Brazilian version of Donald Trump—slimmer and a decade younger, but just as mouthy—with a large dollop of the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte thrown in.

. . .

Most of Bolsonaro’s supporters get their news from social media, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, and the candidate has learned how to use it to his advantage, much as Trump has with Twitter. He now has nearly seven million Facebook followers—he has apparently gained a million in the past three weeks—far more than any of the other candidates. In scheduled debates, he has gone one better than Trump, who mostly just insulted his rivals, by not showing up at all. This, too, seems to have helped him. Since the most recent debate, on Thursday, which he did not attend, he has gained two percentage points.

In another echo of Trump, Bolsonaro has been bolstered by a wave of support from the private sector and evangelicals. This past week, the billionaire televangelist Edir Macedo, who has a huge following in Brazil, and a media empire, announced his support. Brazil’s businessmen, in their swing to Bolsonaro, seem simply to have done their math. Their center-right candidates are languishing far behind in the race, and Bolsonaro’s promise to hand economic policy over to a well-known University of Chicago-educated economist named Paulo Guedes has made him a more palatable choice for them. Perhaps most surprising, however, Bolsonaro’s support has been growing among middle- and upper-class women, even though he opposes equal pay for women (“because they get pregnant”), paid maternity leave, and abortion. There’s also the fact that he was found guilty on charges of incitement to rape and defamation, after he told a congresswoman that she “wasn’t worth raping” (he said it twice, the first time in 2003), and was ordered to pay her damages of about twenty-five hundred dollars. In a related case, the attorney general recently charged him with inciting hatred and discrimination against women and other groups. (Bolsonaro denies the charges, saying that they are politically motivated; the initial incident with the congresswoman was caught on video.) This past Saturday saw nationwide protests led by women—members of the “Not Him” movement—but Daniela Pinheiro, the editor of the weekly news magazine Epoca, told me that “Brazilian TV didn’t cover the protests well, and the day after, Bolsonaro’s people spread a lot of fake news, including pictures of naked women peeing in the streets, saying, ‘This is what the P.T. wants to do with our women and kids.’ ”

Bolsonaro and Trump may be uncannily similar in their world view and comportment, but they have led different lives. A lanky, floppy-haired sixty-three-year-old of Italian-immigrant stock, Bolsonaro went into Brazil’s Army academy from high school, in 1971, at the height of the country’s repressive right-wing military dictatorship, and served in the Army for seventeen years, leaving with a captain’s rank and a reputation for being “ambitious” and “aggressive.” He has remained both. After a stint as a city councilman, in Rio, he was elected to Congress in 1991, and has held his seat ever since. Although he has spent most of that time on the political sidelines, he has been unswerving in his role as a provocateur, prone to outrageous statements that insured headlines. These have included inflammatory pronouncements about his own children. Bolsonaro, who has been married three times, is the father of four boys and a girl. He once told a crowd that his daughter was sired “in a moment of weakness,” and he has said that if any one of his sons turned out to be gay, “it would be better for him to die in an accident.”


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