Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president-elect, vows to wage military-inspired war on crime
Brazil’s far-right president-elect has said he will re-institute the death penalty, empower police to kill suspects, tear up environmental regulations and rescue the country from political corruption through a military-inspired approach to governing.
The 63-year-old congressman seized victory in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday with 55 per cent of the popular vote, following a vicious campaign in which he routinely targeted blacks, homosexuals and women with inflammatory rhetoric espousing his conservative values.
Bolsonaro will take over as president of South America’s most populous country on Jan. 1. He’ll be tasked with steering one of the world’s largest democracies out of an economic crisis that has resulted in stagnant growth and surging crime.
“We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and leftist extremism,” Bolsonaro said in his acceptance speech. “We are going to change the destiny of Brazil.”
Bolsonaro delivered his acceptance speech from his home in Rio on Sunday, where he’s spent most of the latter part of the election campaign. Bolsonaro was stabbed at a rally on Sept. 6, sparking a media frenzy over his health that catapulted him to the front of the election race.
His campaign kept all but friendly media companies from visiting him during his recovery in hospital, and announced he would skip several debates on doctors’ orders. Even after being discharged in late September, Bolsonaro avoided debates during the last month, citing his health. However, he continued to hammer his opponents through online videos and social media messages.
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Bolsonaro presented himself as the answer to a string of corruption scandals that have rocked Brazil in recent years, in a “drain the swamp”-style campaign similar to the one U.S. President Donald Trump rode into the White House in 2016.
“Just like he wants to make America great, I want to make Brazil great,” Bolsonaro said in a televised interview in July.
Trump congratulated Bolsinaro on his victory Monday, saying the two nations will “work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has openly admired military-style rulers and promised to wage war on environmental regulations that prevent businesses from exploiting the country’s natural resources.
Here’s what we know about Bolsonaro’s military and environment platforms, according to his rhetoric on the campaign trail.
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Admiring the military
Bolsonaro is the first former military member to be democratically elected in Brazil since the end of the military dictatorship, which ran from 1964-1985. Bolsonaro was a captain during the latter part of that regime, and he has openly praised and supported the military throughout his 27 years as a congressman.
“The nation is looking to the armed forces as a guarantee against barbarity,” he wrote in his government plan.
Bolsonaro says he will fill his cabinet with military officers including former Gen. Augusto Heleno, who will serve as his minister of defence.
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“If Congress grants permission, I would put armed forces in the streets,” he said in an interview with Band TV earlier this month. He added that the country is “at war” with crime.
Lock ’em up
Bolsonaro has said he would jail or exile his political opponents after taking power, in what he says would be an effort to establish stability in Brazil.
“Either they go overseas, or they go to jail,” he said in a pre-election video address to his supporters. “It will be a cleanup the likes of which has never been seen in Brazillian history.”
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He has also hailed the former military regime for using torture tactics with its leftist opponents.
“I’m in favour of torture, you know that,” he said in a 1999 TV interview. “And the people are in favour as well.”
Bolsonaro has said he would reinstate the death penalty in Brazil, and would even volunteer to carry out those executions himself.
He also promised to shield police from punishment when they kill someone on the job, saying that any officer who kills a “bum” should be “celebrated, not prosecuted.” Bolsonaro says current laws are too restrictive, and police should be freed up to defend themselves.
“You cannot treat [criminals] as if they were normal human beings,” he said in a televised interview in August.
“We can’t let policemen keep dying at the hands of those guys.”
Brazil has long been the world leader in overall homicide numbers, and its homicide rate is also one of the highest. Nearly 64,000 people were murdered in the country last year, according to a report from the Brazillian Forum for Public Security.
Bolsonaro has said he would encourage “good citizens” to buy guns and would reduce the age of legal responsibility from 18 to 16.
Targeting the Amazon
Bolsonaro has said he would stop recognizing portions of the Amazon rainforest as Indigenous land, ending a decades-old government effort to protect uncontacted Indigenous people. Such a move would open up more than half of the country to mining, logging and farming.
“Not a centimetre will be demarcated for Indigenous reserves,” Bolsonaro said on the campaign trail. He claimed that Indigenous people want to rent out their land and do business, and that government protections are preventing them from making a profit.
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Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) has spent decades trying to protect Indigenous people in the Amazon from loggers, farmers and outsiders who want to seize their lands. Brazil’s Indigenous people are currently entitled to their land and their way of life under the Constitution of 1988.
Bolsonaro has raised the possibility of combining Brazil’s environment and agriculture industries into one — a move that environmentalists worry would lead to deforestation to make more room for farms. Critics have accused Bolsonaro of harbouring a pro-farming agenda through his participation in the “ruralist caucus” in Brazil’s Congress.
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He has also hinted at pulling Brazil out of the Paris climate accord, though he recently walked that back. He said Brazil would stay in the deal as long as it did not have to give up jurisdiction of the Brazillian Amazon — something that is not mentioned in the accord.
—With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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