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Brazil shifts right as Bolsonaro elected

Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect of Brazil, waves at a polling station in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Brazilian politics took a right turn on Sunday with the election of former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro as president.

Running a populist campaign against corruption and crime, Bolsonaro had 55.2 percent of the vote with 99.7 percent of ballots counted in a runoff election against left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT), who got 44.8 percent, according to electoral authority TSE.

An outspoken admirer of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro pledged a smaller government and to realign Brazil with more advanced economies, overhauling diplomatic priorities.

“We are going to change the destiny of Brazil,” Bolsonaro, 63, said in an acceptance address in which he vowed to carry out his campaign promises against corruption after years of leftist rule.

A seven-term congressman in the Chamber of Deputies, Bolsonaro rode the rejection of the PT, which governed the world’s fourth-largest democracy for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago amid a recession and graft scandal.

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters cheered and set off fireworks outside his home in Rio de Janeiro’s Barra de Tijuca beachfront neighborhood as his victory was announced. In Brazil’s commercial capital of Sao Paulo, the news was greeted with fireworks and the honking of car horns.

“Brazil is partying. Brazil’s good people are celebrating,” said Carmen Flores, local president of Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL).

The vote had been calm and orderly across the country, said Laura Chinchilla, the former president of Costa Rica who is head of the Organization of American States’ Electoral Observation Mission. Brazil has experienced partisan violence during the polarized campaign, and Bolsonaro himelf was stabbed during a campaign rally in September.

Many Brazilians are concerned that Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and a defender of torture of opponents, will suppress civil liberties.

In his acceptance speech, he promised to govern according to the Bible and the country’s constitution.

Bolsonaro has vowed a crackdown on crime in Brazil’s cities and farm regions by giving police more autonomy to shoot criminals. The tough approach has prompted comparisons to Philippines strongman Rodrigo Dutuerte. Bolsonaro also wants to let more Brazilians buy weapons.

Glenn Greenwald, a prominent US-born journalist and frequent Bolsonaro critic who lives in Brazil, tweeted that “When a ruling class (blanks) over enough of the population for a long enough period of time, they’re going to burn it down — out of desperation & anger — one way or the other. At some point, democracies are going to need to grapple with that or there will be Bolsonaros everywhere.”

Brazil-based writer Alex Hochuli, in a piece on nbcnews.com, wrote: “An editorial in The New York Times put Bolsonaro and (US President Donald) Trump in the same league, but the US is led by a politician who still enacts policy within the bounds of the law, in and through American institutions. The so-called ‘Trump of the Tropics’ is a gross misnomer.”

China has emerged as Brazil’s largest trading partner in recent years, with $75 billion in bilateral trade last year.

Brazil and China are members of the economic organization BRICS, along with India, Russia and South Africa.


 



 
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