RIO DE JANEIRO: Sometimes called a “Tropical Trump” for his politically incorrect vitriol, Brazilian far-right presidential candidate and heavy favorite Jair Bolsonaro has successfully played to an electorate disgusted with politics as usual, reports AFP.
Bolsonaro, 63, has built an image as a political outsider ready to rough up the establishment—no small feat given that, unlike the US president, he is a longtime politician.
The seven-term congressman has few legislative initiatives to his record but, crucially, has not been caught up in the massive corruption scandals that have made Brazilians furious with the political class in recent years.
However, he has made enemies with his denigrating comments on women, gays and blacks, while fondly recalling Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship (1964-1985), in which he served as an army captain.
“The dictatorship’s mistake,” he said two years ago, “was to torture and not kill” leftist dissidents and suspected sympathizers.
But Bolsonaro has promised that if elected, he would govern “with authority, but not authoritarianism.” Running against leftist Fernando Haddad in Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro has promised to relax gun-control laws so that “good people” can take justice into their own hands, in a country fed up with violent crime. In an ironic twist of fate, he was himself stabbed in the stomach at a campaign rally in September, by an attacker who said God had sent him to kill Bolsonaro.
The front-runner spent three weeks in the hospital. But he did not let his injuries keep him off his beloved social media accounts, where he kept up his virulent campaign.
He survived without long-term damage, but, citing doctors’ orders, has since refrained from campaign rallies and—to Haddad’s chagrin—debates. Bolsonaro calls himself an admirer of Donald Trump, and has similarly tapped a deep national malaise—in Brazil’s case, one caused by crime, an ailing economy and the never-ending “Car Wash” corruption scandal that has stoked fury at the political class. “He talks about ‘politicians’ as if he weren’t part of that world. He wants to come across as a strongman, a hardliner, who will fight corruption,” said Michael Mohallem, a law professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
Bolsonaro has sealed the support of the business sector, as well as Brazil’s powerful “Beef, bullets and Bible” caucus—comprising the agrobusiness lobby, security hardliners and Evangelical Christians.