Usem tradutor online para ler, quem não souber ler em inglês.
The danger posed by Jair Bolsonaro
WITH just two months to go before the first round of Brazil’s elections, no one has a clue what will happen. The front-runner for the presidency, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a left-wing former president, is in jail; the courts will almost certainly bar him from running. The rest of the presidential field is fragmented—no candidate polls over 20%. Unless someone wins a majority, the vote will go to a second round on October 28th. At the moment, any of four or five people could win it.
Lula’s probable disqualification is just one of many reasons why this election is especially worrying (see article). His supporters are convinced that he has been unfairly singled out, that the corruption charges against him are trumped up and that his 12-year sentence is excessive. His removal from the race will undermine their trust in it. But under a law that Lula himself signed when he was president, convicts may not run for office. The courts should enforce it.
His exit would heighten a second danger—that Jair Bolsonaro (pictured), a flame-throwing right-winger who is second in the polls, will become the front-runner. The former army captain has barged into the front ranks of candidates through a combination of outrageous provocation and mastery of social media. Even if he does not win, the fact that he has come so far shows that the centre ground of politics is crumbling. Rejecting Mr Bolsonaro outright would be the best way of shoring it up.
Until recently, he was an obscure congressman whose main talent was causing offence. In 2011 he said he would prefer a dead son to a gay one. In 2014 he said of a congresswoman that he wouldn’t rape her because she was “very ugly”. Last year a court fined him for insulting people who live in quilombos, settlements founded by escaped slaves.
Mr Bolsonaro would have remained a fringe figure but for the traumas Brazil has endured over the past four years. The economy suffered its worst-ever recession in 2014-16 and is recovering haltingly. In 2016 a record 62,517 Brazilians were murdered. The Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) corruption cases have led to investigations and indictments of leading figures in every big political party and discredited the entire political class.
Mr Bolsonaro proposes brutal solutions to his country’s problems. He thinks that “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman” and wants to reduce the age of criminal responsibility to 14. This iron fist belongs to an authoritarian worldview. In 2016 he dedicated his vote to impeach the then-president, Dilma Rousseff, to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, commander of a police unit responsible for 500 cases of torture and 40 murders during Brazil’s dictatorship. The charge against Ms Rousseff, who belongs to Lula’s Workers’ Party, had nothing directly to do with Lava Jato. But in paying tribute to Ustra, Mr Bolsonaro was asserting that the values of the dictatorship, which governed in 1964-85, are the antidote to today’s corruption. Mr Bolsonaro has reinforced that message by naming Hamilton Mourão, a retired general, as his running-mate. Last year, while still in uniform, Mr Mourão suggested that, if other institutions failed to solve Brazil’s problems, the army could. The left is mainly to blame for the country’s ills, in Mr Bolsonaro’s cold-war-tinted view.
To Brazilians fed up with politicians, Mr Bolsonaro sounds like an anti-politician. Some businessmen are flirting with him. They like his pistol-packing rhetoric on crime and are intrigued by his recent conversion to economic liberalism (he favours privatising some state enterprises).
Yet Mr Bolsonaro would make a disastrous president. His rhetoric shows that he does not have sufficient respect for many Brazilians, including gay and black people, to govern fairly. There is little evidence that he understands Brazil’s economic problems well enough to solve them. His genuflections to the dictatorship make him a threat to democracy in a country where faith in it has been shaken by the exposure of graft and the misery of the economic slump.
Over 60% of Brazilians say they will never vote for him, more than three times the share of those who say that he has their backing. He lacks support from any strong political party. If he makes it to the second round, odds are that voters will reluctantly choose the alternative, perhaps Geraldo Alckmin, a centrist candidate. He does not deserve to make it even that far.
There is no room for complacency. Other countries with Brazil’s mix of crime, elite failure and economic agony have elected radical leaders whom the pundits dismissed as no-hopers. It could happen again.