Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being named the “Trump of the Tropics” promised the Brazilian people a drastic change if he were to be elected during his candidacy – a complete halt to the increased corruption of politicians and corporations in Brazil. Following “Operation Car Wash”, a massive billion dollar money laundering scandal in one of Brazil’s largest corporations, Petrobras, the Brazilian people had had enough of being lied to, and rightfully so. This operation was not solely at the fault of the corporation however, as many senior officials linked to the government were also accepting bribes from the company and awarding construction contracts in return. It quickly became apparent to Brazilians that corruption was being institutionalized; powerful corporations and influential politicians were intertwined in this illegal operation, opening the door for corruption to be present in any business or political decision being made.
The uproar as a result of Operation Car Wash was immense, skyrocketing the violence in Brazil to rank the country as having one of the highest homicide rates in the world. At this time, Bolsonaro begins to gain some traction on the political stage – as his reputation remains untouched by these corruption allegations, he gains the credibility to express his views against violence and corruption in Brazil. However, he also slowly gains his current nickname – Trump of the Tropics, based upon his radicalized homophobia and sexism, quoted by telling a female politician that she’s too ugly to get raped. Sound familiar?
I was extremely shocked and concerned for the future of Brazil when I heard that Jair Bolsonaro had won the Brazilian election in October of 2018, similar to my feelings when Donald Trump had won the election. However, I understood why. It’s extremely apparent that Brazilians have grown tiresome of the deeply-embedded corruption in their country, a main talking point of Bolsonaro’s campaign. The people began to feel as if their democracy was being run by thieves, people who were either directly involved in the bribery scandals or were simply turning a blind eye to it. Bolsonaro’s authoritarian-based rule, and his desire to govern very closely gave the people a promise of order, even if it came at the cost of some of their civil liberties.
Just weeks after Bolsonaro’s swearing in, after he had promised to “rid Brazil of corruption”, his own administration was facing allegations of bribery. Bolsonaro had also appointed three government ministers who were involved in corruption allegations previously. So, where does this leave Brazil? I understand the temptation of voting for a radicalized right-winged politician who is going to “actually get shit done” in politics, unlike the past presidents in power. We have seen with two countries now that people will vote in favour of a radical when they feel trapped, with the false belief that they will see the changes they need with a leader with extremist views. However, having leaders in power like Trump and Bolsonaro also has consequences – they’ve both faced severe allegations of illegality, and they’ve both made racist, homophobic and sexist comments that allows this hate to be okay. I can’t even begin to understand the frustration that Brazilians must be facing regarding the increasing corruption in their country, and their desperate desire to make it end. But I also know that going backwards in electing hate-filled extremists is never going to allow us to move forward.