Contribution by Mathis Morgat,
3rd-year student in ESSCA’s Bachelor in International Business Development.
On the 28th of October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of the Brazilian Republic. Referring to ideological similarities with the current President of the United States, he has been called “the tropical Trump”.
In order to understand whether a “French Trump” would be possible, it is interesting and necessary to know who the Brazilian protagonist is, to understand his convictions, his thoughts and his goals.
Jair Bolsonaro began his career in the Brazilian army. Thus his story begins in 1977 when he graduated from his school and emerged as an army soldier. Then shortly afterwards he became a section captain. After nine years in the army, he decided to get involved in politics. His first reason for applying for a political function was the objective to increase soldiers’ salaries. After having known their labour, it seemed normal to him to improve the condition of his peers. However, his actions were frowned upon by the former government and earned him a direct visit to a Brazilian prison on the grounds of « insubordination ».
Following these events, Bolsonaro became a city councilor of Rio de Janeiro and then returned to parliament in 1990 as candidate of the Christian Democratic Party. This will be his debut in politics and we can already notice that he was associating himself with a party with strong ideas, similar to the radical right of Marine Le Pen. The party eventually dissolved, Bolsonaro therefore moved from the right-wing to the center to make his mark and returned in 2018 to the liberal social party, for which he would finally run for the presidency and then be elected with 56% of the votes.
How could he seduce the Brazilian people?
There has been a lot of criticism in European media about Bolsonaro and his ideas. But let’s put our criticism aside and try to understand from within how Bolsonaro succeeded in his stratospheric rise. In order to do so, we will address three major points from his political agend: security, economy and education.
To start with, one of the strategic issues of his election campaign, the security in his country. In 2017, Brazil counted 63,880 homicides, which corresponds to seven persons killed per hour!
The president’s solution to improve this situation and to avoid murders? Liberalize access to firearms, which was abolished in 2003. When crime and poverty are omnipresent in your country, and you are offered the possibility of defending yourself by easily obtaining a weapon, it is understandable that you will be tempted to vote for this candidate because you will feel more secure.
But, is this the reality? Studies by some NGO’s prove that firearms do not reduce insecurity. But those who voted for Bolsonaro do not care for this evidence: they want to be able to defend themselves without anyone’s help.
Moreover, also in the field of security, the president wants to establish the penal majority at age 16, as it is no secret that gangs use children to smuggle drugs or commit minor to serious crimes, knowing that their age allows them to have certain migrating circumstance.
Here’s a rather scary sentence by Bolsonaro on security: “if a policeman kills ten, fifteen, twenty people, he must be decorated, not prosecuted”.
In addition to seducing the people, worried about security, the president intends to stimulate the economy that is now revolving around Brazil. In fact, the Brazilian stock exchange increased by 6% on the day of Bolsonaro’s election. Why? Because of his economic ideas. He wants to privatize many companies but also sell some of the state’s properties. It represents an approximate total of 232 billion $. Of course, the stock market is on fire when you have a president with such liberal ideas. Whether it is good for the general public, that’s another issue.
In addition to this, Bolsonaro wants to grant the central bank total independence, reduce the size of the state (less ministers etc) and solve the unemployment problem. These are his words: “What entrepreneurs are telling me, and I agree with them, is that the worker will have to choose: less rights and more jobs, or more rights and unemployment.” It seems that 13 million unemployed people is a Brazil that the stock market appreciates.
Concerning education, he wants to develop distance learning. This is very appealing to public opinion as a number of young Brazilians don’t have easy access to education. So allowing people to stay at home while studying is a strong argument. This is what worries some NGO’s who say “this means, among other things, a renunciation of literacy”. Seducing the people may mean giving them what they want, but in this case, it is certainly not helping them to develop.
To avoid any criticism from parties who do not express the same ideas as him (the social parties), he says: “if this gang wants to stay here, they will have to submit to the law like everyone else. Either they go away, or they go to prison” This is J. Bolsonaro’s point of view on public freedom.
A French Bolsonaro?
Could we ever elect this kind of person ? We agree that Marine Le Pen’s programme is not the same as J Bolsonaro’s, but she represents the extremist part of our population and therefore the one that comes closest to his ideas. We as a developed country that takes the liberty to teach lessons to many others, how can we have a far-right candidate in the second round of the presidential election?
I hope this blogpost contributes to understanding that extremist ideas cannot make a country better. The French are known worldwide for complaining a lot, but they’d better look at what they have, be open-minded and see what is happening elsewhere.