A few days before the Brazilian presidential elections, the political atmosphere in the country seemed quite polarized. This wasn’t a surprise given the economic crisis and the successive corruption scandals in Brazil these last four years. Since 1989, no other political party apart from the current bipartisan rivalry has arrived on the eve of the elections with such a considerable margin when compared to Jair Bolsonaro in the polls. Thus, Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain who presented himself as an out-of-establishment candidate, was elected with 55 percent of the valid votes.
The elected president, who has been a congressman for 27 years, threatened the current Brazilian presidential bipartisanship that has been turning around the Worker’s Party (PT) and the Social Democracy Brazilian Party (PSDB) since 1995. That threat has already proved substantial to Fernando Haddad, the Worker’s Party candidate who ran against him on the second round.
But mainstream journalists are doing in Brazil what they have done all over the world: Defaming what they see as conservative. The election of Donald Trump is evidence of this process. Instead of honestly searching for a reasonable explanation of the “Trump phenomenon,” the analysts of the biggest newspapers and TV channels opted for associating him and his supporters with radicals full of hate, often using the “ad hitlerum” fallacy to prove their point. The same thing has happened in the Brazil elections.
On the one hand, Bolsonaro, who was labeled the “Brazilian Trump” by the The Guardian and The Economist, shares several similarities with the American president. Both faced tough opposition from liberals through the so-called “fake news” media.
An interesting episode was when Bolsonaro was interviewed in a conference directed to more than 2,000 financial market executives on Feb. 6. A whole five days later, on Feb. 11, one of the main newspapers in Brazil reported that Bolsonaro said in that conference he would impose a curfew in a favela, and kill anyone who didn’t obey it. How could this extreme statement be ignored for five days if it was said to an audience of more than 2,000 people? The conference’s interviewer, Augusto Nunes, dismissed the article on the radio.
There are plenty of other examples of fake news used throughout the presidential run. In a recent one, the singer Geraldo Azevedo alleged he was tortured in 1969, during the military dictatorship, by Bolsonaro’s vice president, General Mourão. Nonetheless, in 1969 Mourão was just 16 years old and was still in high school. The candidate Haddad used the singer’s statement to attack Bolsonaro’s candidacy, but he had to go back after Mourão said he would sue him for this slander.
Many of Bolsonaro’s videos on YouTube were recorded just to dismiss the fake news revolving around him on the mainstream media. Recently, the Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the elected president’s son, uploaded a video with 10 examples of fake news created to attack his father. Among them, there are lies including that he will ban video games, that under his government public universities will start charging tuition fees, and that he will end the 13th salary (a worker’s right in Brazil).
Also similarly to Trump, Bolsonaro has not always been careful with his speeches, for which he is labeled as a radical nowadays. He has in his repertoire many declarations of his 27-year career as a congressman on which the opposition relied to confront him.
Like Trump, he has manifested opposition to the liberal globalist agenda. Although not making any direct reference to this term, one strong point of his campaign is directed at fighting the indoctrination in public schools, striving for the right of citizens to have a gun, encouraging tougher penalties for criminals, and radically changing the orientation of Brazilian foreign policy, nowadays close to the Bolivarian regimes of the region.
Hence, just after Sunday’s results, he received a call from Trump and a message from Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister of Italy. Both are recognized as rivals of the liberal agenda and are labeled by the mainstream media as authoritarian.
Brazil was recently governed by a few parties that played a leading role in one of the most serious corruption scandals in world history. Even so, the international media did not highlight this factor as an important element in Brazilian voters’ choice. Throughout its years in the government, PT, the left party, was ahead of an assault on Petrobras, the national oil company, which saw its shares melting more than 76 percent in 6 years. In states such as Rio de Janeiro, where the economy revolves around the oil sector, unemployment increased by 157 percent in three years. In the beginning of the years, there were 1.2 million unemployed workers in the state.
The current president, Michel Temer, who came into office in 2016 after the impeachment of Dilma Roussef, started the economy’s recovery. Inflation dropped from 10.67 percent in 2015 to 2.95 percent in 2017 and GDP, which has fallen 3.8 percent in 2015 (the worst result in 25 years), rose by a modest 1 percent after two years of economic recession.
Nevertheless, unemployment in Brazil remains a disaster, and there are 27.6 million workers without a job. This certainly is the most problematic inheritance of the future president. Currently, health and violence are the main problems for electors, according to polls performed in September. As stated by the World Health Organization, more than 10 homicides per 100,000 people represents an epidemic level. In Brazil, homicides rates are astounding: 30.3 murders per 100,000 people, totaling more than 60,000 deaths per year, a number that has been constantly increasing since the 90s.
Bolsonaro addressed the electors using simple language and discussed issues that are pertinent to a population that is completely disgruntled with politics. With a lean and understandable government plan of 81 pages, Bolsonaro got the sympathy of many people making speeches live on Facebook and YouTube, dodging the difficulties of a campaign with few resources and little TV time. Bolsonaro has declared himself against abortion, new taxes, and gun control laws. These are issues that ordinary people have already proven to care about.
In contrast to all elements presented above, the global media, which is also written by Brazilian journalists, focuses on other elements that are not so relevant to Brazilian voters. Actors, writers, and the liberal elite think that with a Bolsonaro government, democracy would be under threat. Even Roger Waters, when in Brazil for a few concerts in October, lent his voice to the #NotHim movement, a campaign to stop Jair’s rise.
Instead of doing a mea culpa, the Brazilian left chose to demonize the opposition. Ordinary family fathers, workers, and housewives were associated with fascism and authoritarianism just for supporting the change with Bolsonaro. The people who live with all the current serious problems in Brazil aren’t fascists, they just saw the corruption being ignored by one political side, which gave prominence to other issues instead, “in the name of democracy.”
Now this same side will have four long years to rethink what democracy is all about.