Brazil’s New President: A Return to Dictatorship
This Sunday, Oct. 27th, Brazil concluded their presidential elections and elected their 38th president, the controversial Jair Bolsonaro. The election ended with the voting between extremist Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad, a representative of the Workers’ Party– the political party that has governed Brazil for the past 13 years. Despite his election, Bolsonaro has faced a profuse amount of criticism and backlash over his ideals and plans for Brazil’s future. Bolsonaro is known to be extremely sexist, racist, and homophobic; among countless other offensive remarks, he once stated that he would rather have his son die than be gay, and in an interview in 2016, he argued that women do not deserve the same salaries as men. Additionally, his far-right beliefs threaten to bring back the authoritarian military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Despite the disapproval of Bolsonaro, Dean of the Class of 2021 Ms. Larissa Dzegar, is “not surprised that he won, based on where Brazil was going and the direction that it’s been going in financially.”
Although Brazil’s probable return to a dictatorial society is a terrible fate and Bolsonaro’s views are horribly flawed, The Workers’ Party has many problems of its own, including the fact that their leadership drove Brazil’s economy to the ground and has increased poverty and violence by a great amount. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, founder of the Workers’ Party, is now facing 12 years of jail time for money laundering and corruption. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, also affiliated with the Workers’ Party, was impeached. Ms. Dzegar believes that there is a “hunger for change” from the Workers’ Party’s governing, and that Brazilians “feel really unsafe, they want someone who comes in and changes the violence.”
Bolsonaro not only threatens to bring back Brazil’s dictatorial past, but his election is also a huge setback for many Brazilian minorities. Similarly to what we have seen with Trump’s presidency, the election of the hateful Bolsonaro, is threatening to minorities, especially because Brazil is a country where the majority of citizens are people of color. “I’ve heard a lot of people, since Trump was elected, say [that] it is better that people’s prejudices are out in the open and that we should know them,” says Ms. Dzegar, “I don’t agree with that, I think that there will always be prejudice, there will always be racism, sexism, homophobia. I don’t think we’re gonna eradicate that in this lifetime, what we need is for our leaders to show that that is not okay and that those actions are criminal. Hate speech is a crime. I don’t think that we should have anyone normalizing that.”
Another large issue that this election has caused is the split that has been made between the Brazilian people who support the Workers’ Party and the ones who support Bolsonaro. Mr. Lucas Maia, Upper School music teacher, commented on how “devastating [it is] seeing my facebook page, my social media, people being torn apart to both sides and at this point people are not even listening to each other anymore.” Just like the American 2016 presidential election, people with different views have become hostile towards each other, and the polarization of the Brazilian people could not be any more distinct. “It has made it impossible for people with different views to be in the same room together and have a conversation about their values because everything sounds like an attack,” says Ms. Dzegar about the repercussions of the 2016 election, “and I foresee that happening in Brazil [too], which I think is really sad.”
Bolsonaro’s forthcoming presidency speaks volumes about both the state of the Brazilian community and economy. As Brazil reacts to their new president and adapts to the transition between being governed by the Workers’ Party to most likely returning to a military dictatorship, we as Americans should remember, as Ms. Dzegar puts it, that “a country is more than its leaders,” and we must continue to educate ourselves about national politics that are not directly related to us.