Last month, Jair Messias Bolsonaro was sworn in as the 38thpresident of Brazil. A former member of the Chamber of Deputies, the Brazilian legislature, and captain in the reserve army, Bolsonaro became leader of the conservative Social Liberal Party and was elected president on Oct. 28. During 27 years in the Brazilian legislature, he became a critic of same-sex “marriage,” abortion, secularism, and drug legalization.
Bolsonaro announced in 2016 that he would run for president as a candidate of the Social Christian Party, but left the party last March and joined the Social Liberals. He ran as a political outsider promising to clean up political corruption and violent crime, and to defend family values. On Oct. 7, the Social Liberals finished first with 46 per cent of the vote but failed to win an outright majority. Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party finished second with 29 per cent.
Bolsonaro won by a narrower margin in the second round, 55 per cent to 45 per cent. However, his party finished second in total number of seats and even with its center-right allies does not have a majority. Bolsonaro said he will ignore the party chiefs and work with individual legislators on a case-by-case basis to get his agenda passed.
The party motto of the Social Liberals is “Brazil Above Everything, God Above Everyone.” During the inauguration, Bolsonaro said, “With the blessing of God, the support of my family and the strength of the Brazilian people, I will work indefatigably so that Brazil can realise its destiny and become the great nation we all want.”
As a legislator, in 2011, Bolsonaro denounced the sex-ed material offered by UNESCO in some Brazilian schools as the “gay kit.” He said that children as young as six should not be exposed to graphic sexual material and homosexuality in early elementary school. (The education minister at the time was Haddad, his presidential opponent last year.) Bolsonaro also criticized the imposition of gender ideology in schools, and vowed to remove “Marxist garbage” from the education system.
Bolsonaro has been a critic of Brazil’s growing secularism. While campaigning for president in 2017, Bolsonaro said in a speech: “God above everything. There is no such thing as a secular state. The state is Christian, and any minority that is against this has to change.” He later vowed to govern “for everyone, regardless of religion,” but he maintained many of his pro-life and pro-family positions.
In 2011, he said he would not attend a gay pride parade, but also said he would be “incapable of loving a gay son” and that having gay neighbours reduced the market value of homes. He said homosexuality is “an affront to the family structure, and if that makes me prejudiced, then I’m prejudiced and proud of it.” More recently, in 2016, he said that the number of homosexuals was increasing because of “liberal habits, drugs, (and) with women also working.” In 2017, the Court of Justice for the State of Rio de Janeiro sentenced Bolsonaro to pay a fine of 150,000 reals for hate speech because of televised comments he made in 2011 to the CQC TV program, when Bolsonaro stated that “there is no risk” of his family producing a homosexual child because his children had a “good education.” Judge Luciana Teixeira claimed the comments were a deliberate attack and humiliation of homosexuals, and that Bolsonaro abused his freedom of expression in making the comments.
Bolsonaro appeared to moderate his views during the campaign, saying: “I have nothing to do with anyone’s behavior. If the man and the woman later decide to live with their partner, to form a couple, to live with a same-sex person, go and be happy.” Yet he maintained the government should not promote the lifestyle: “But we cannot admit that, by our omission in the Parliament, children become homosexuals in the future, or have such homosexual behavior in the future, by the influence of school. That is inadmissible.”
Brazil also bans abortion except in cases of rape and fatal fetal anomalies, but pro-abortion forces at the United Nations and in Latin America had hoped to liberalize the law. Most pro-abortion groups say there is little chance of doing so under Bolsonaro and the Brazilian Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of allowing abortion for up to 12 weeks.
During the campaign, Bolsonaro vowed that “proposals to liberate abortion in Brazil will have my veto” and to block any Brazilian taxpayer dollars from being used by foreign agencies to promote and carry out abortions.
However, as a legislator Bolsonaro supported supplying birth control for the poor, saying many uneducated women cannot understand family planning. He suggested that some poor families have children to increase their welfare payments.
Bolsonaro appointed some former military to senior positions in his cabinet, but he notably named evangelical pastor Damares Alves as his Minister for Women, Family, and Human Rights. She joked that girls would be allowed to wear pink and boys wear blue.
The western media describe Bolsonaro as a Trumpian, far-right populist and a fascist. Tim Black, a columnist for Spiked-Online said that far from being a fascist, Bolsonaro holds standard conservative views for a right-wing party: free market economics and social conservatism. The difference from some other right-wing politicians is that Bolsonaro seems willing to carry out this agenda.