Brazil Swings to the Far Right as Bolsonaro Wins Presidency

Jair Bolsonaro is the new president of Brazil. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – As widely predicted, Jair Bolsonaro is the new president of Brazil after Sunday’s balloting. The controversial ultra-rightist was elected to head the largest economy in Latin America with 55.54 percent of the votes in the second round runoff, according to the official results with 94.67 of the votes counted, a trend considered irreversible, reported dpa news.

The Worker’s Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, obtained 44.46 percent of the valid votes, according to the data furnished by the electoral authorities.

Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old ex-military man and dubbed by many the Brazilian Trump, was for weeks the clear favorite to win the most controversial elections in the South American giant since the end of the dictatorship in 1985, due to the rise of the extreme right.

Bolsonaro comes to the presidency prompted by the protest vote of millions of Brazilians weary of corruption scandals, the economic crisis and the wave of violence that has punished the country in recent years. His inauguration will be on January 1, 2019.

The winner, who presented himself as “anti-system” despite being a legislator since 1991, is controversial for his insults to women, blacks and homosexuals, and for his praise of torture and the last Brazilian dictatorship (1964-1985).

Haddad, heir to the popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was burdened by the “Lava Jato” (Car wash) corruption cases attributed to his Workers’ Party (PT). Lula himself is serving a 12-year prison term.

More than 147 million Brazilians were called to the polls today in the largest election in Latin America. Brazil has been plunged for years in a continuous institutional crisis by corruption cases uncovered especially by the “Lava Jato” investigations, released in 2014, which involved a large part of the country’s politicians.

Added to this are the effects of a severe recession, which led to a contraction of 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2015 and 2016, and a wave of violence and insecurity.

Bolsonaro garnered support in large sectors of the population, even among more moderate voters, with his aggressive speech against the discredited political classes and his strong-arm promises to fight crime.

“His proposal that I most like is on security. Today you can’t go out in Rio de Janeiro without fear of being assaulted,” said Leandra Nascimento, a 22-year-old woman who came after voting to celebrate in front of the house of Bolsonaro, in the well-to-do district of Barra da Tijuca, on the west side of Rio.

“This country needs a change,” added Nascimento, a native of Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil, traditional bastion of the PT. “I voted in 2014 for the PT, my family always voted in the PT, now it’s divided, the PT already had its chance and did nothing.”

“He is the only candidate who is prepared to change the country and who did not receive bribes,” said Kelly Barreto, 33 years old. “Taking the PT mafia out of power will be a great start,” he added.

The voters of Haddad, on the other hand, see the new president as a threat to Brazilian democracy.

“Bolsonaro represents a great setback for my country,” said Carla Oliviera, a 42-year-old architect. “He is a candidate who does not respect people or institutions,” she added.

Olivera said, “activists like us will face exile or jail,” recalling one of the candidate’s recent speeches. “I feel afraid.”

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