Brazil’s democratic challenge

Marina Guimaraes studies Political Science and English and American Studies at FAU. She comments on the election of Bolsonaro for president in her homeland Brazil.

 

‘It was him.’
‘No, him.’
‘I swear it wasn’t me.’
‘He paid me.’

Statements such as the ones above have been heard by Brazilians long enough. Mostly after the world’s biggest corruption scandal, Operation Car Wash, which had already 160 people arrested, including former left-wing president Lula Da Silva. Another 232 people are still being investigated, among them important businessmen and politicians.

It doesn’t matter who started it. Brazilians are angrier than ever, more disappointed than ever and hopeless as never before. This sentiment of dissatisfaction was more than clear after this year’s elections’ results.

‘We feel that our taxes go directly to the pockets of politicians. This is the Workers’ Party’s fault. They stole so much that, in hospitals, some nurses say that they can’t even provide us care anymore’, says L, a lower-class Brazilian, whose husband almost died after having treatment denied in a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro because of the lack of resources, material and 3-month delayed payments for doctors. In the end, L’s husband was lucky enough to have been able to be treated because L’s boss knew one of the doctors at the hospital. ‘We were very lucky. His paranasal sinus cancer was in a very advanced stage.’

Truth is that my country is broke. People are literally dying while waiting for treatment in public hospitals, unemployment rate is still high (12,1%), and public security is also a mess even after the federal military intervention in Rio de Janeiro. Numbers remain chaotic, homicide rates remain high, and Brazilians feel more lost than ever.

 

Exile or jail?

In this uncertain scenario, far- right candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro appeared. Some people refer to him as ‘the meme candidate’ because of the absurds that come out of his mouth while others refer to him as ‘The myth’.

The newly elected candidate, polemic as he is, has already declared his admiration for president Donald Trump and for one of the biggest Brazilian coronels, General Carlos Ustra, who has been accused of torturing a significant number of people during the country’s dark dictatorship period starting in 1964. Additionally, during one of his final campaign acts in São Paulo, the newly elected declared that his ‘red’ political rivals could either way go into exile (overseas) or go to jail.

Bolsonaro also pointed out that his family would move if they had homosexual neighbors (his son should not have to see such a thing!), defends the free acquisition of weapons and that ‘a good criminal is a dead criminal’.

More recently, when giving an interview to the Jornal Nacional, Bolsonaro said that ‘he would end with activism in Brazil’. Just yesterday (29th October), after being elected, Bolsonaro accused the newspaper ‘Folha de São Paulo’ of having produced fake news about one of his staff members, whom the newspaper accused of being a ‘ghost’ worker.

Pest and cholera

While some Brazilians are devastated with the results, some of them were celebrating on the streets: a real ‘carnival of the right’ in Rio de Janeiro’s west zone, just outside the elected man’s house.

However, what the international press fails to explain is the other side of the coin. Brazilians were obliged to choose between cholera and pest. Some chose Haddad, who is part of the same Workers’ Party, whose leading figure (who is also in jail for passive corruption) stated that Venezuela ‘was a clear example of democracy’, whose president congratulated dictator Maduro after the governor’s defrauded elections in the country. This way, some Brazilians do not believe in the party’s commitment to democracy.

Others, however, chose Bolsonaro, who they believe is ‘the new face of Brazilian politics’ and the ‘Brazilian hero’ who will fight corruption, improve the economy (his economy minister, Paulo Guedes has a big acceptance among the people and the market) and who will improve one of the biggest problems in the country, public security (63,880 people were murdered in the country in 2017, with 175 deaths per day. Sadly, the tendency in 2018 is that this number will rise across the country).

What some important Brazilian journalists claim is that the big winner of the 2018’s elections was the ‘anti-PT sentiment’ across Brazil. It is also being claimed often that Bolsonaro’s far-right intolerant ideas would not have been so well accepted by the people if the Workers’ Party’s approval had been higher. ‘People’s main concern now is not the Culture Ministry, the tolerance with refugees, homosexuals and human rights. Our main concern is to have a work to go to, to be able to afford an ordinary life here in Brazil without being scared of being shot in the middle of the street and for my children to have a school to go to. This is why I believe Bolsonaro is the best option for the country.’ One of his supporters who asked not to be identified tells me.

 

My people will have to be there for one another

Therefore, between cholera and pest, Brazilians chose the pest. They chose intolerance, prejudice and a candidate who does not trust himself when talking about the economy: ‘my minister Paulo Guedes will explain everything’. If this is the right way of doing politics, no one knows. What we are sure about though is that Brazil is one of the biggest democracies in the world and that, to keep it that way, my people will have to be resistant and will have to be there for one another.

Whether I like it or not, Jair Bolsonaro was democratically elected the 38th president of Brazil. What I truly hope, however, is that I bite my tongue and that the next four years are not as chaotic as I sadly expect them to be. I hope that Jair Bolsonaro remains faithful to our 1988 constitution and that intolerance does not have its place in our society. Brazilians have suffered long enough.

 

By Marina Guimaraes