A radical change: Brazil makes a turn towards the extreme right

After the victory of the extreme right in the presidential elections, multiple factors help explain how Brazil has taken an important political turn 

A radical change: Brazil makes a turn towards the extreme right

The controversial Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in one of the most complex elections since the end of the dictatorship. The largest democracy in Latin America has taken a 180-degree turn that represents a political dominance of the right in the region. However, this scenario is not easily explained.

Leer en español: Cambio radical: Brasil toma un giro hacia la ultraderecha

According to the newspaper El País of Spain, Bolsonaro won the election with 55% of the votes, with almost 11 points of an advantage of his rival in the second round, Fernando Haddad, of the Workers' Party, who accumulated 44% of the support of the voters. Haddad did not seem to be the best figure to challenge the growing popularity of the right-wing candidate. Months before the election of October 28, the conditions were totally different. According to the news agency France 24, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former president who threw himself into politics again, was a leader in the polls against Bolsonaro. All the forecasts pointed out that in case of a second presidential round between Lula and the eventual elected president, the left leader would impose himself without problems.

But the political climate in Brazil did not allow such a scenario. Lula is involved since 2016 in the Lava Jato scandal, which is a judicial investigation that found money from the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras used as bribes to politicians in that country. According to the newspaper El Tiempo, Lula would have received 8 million dollars in conference and gift payments.

In August of this year, the candidate surrendered to serve the 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering, an event he called "political persecution." In this way, the road was free for Jair Bolsonaro, a retired military man close to macho and homophobic ideas, a fervent supporter of the dictatorship and of civilian weapons.

Should the Brazilian left be blamed for the corruption cases in which it was involved in the rise of an ultraconservative politician? This may be one of the reasons, but not the main one. When comparing the way Brazil voted for president on October 28, it is found that the most affluent sectors chose Bolsonaro (95% of rich districts voted for him), while the poorest supported Haddad (90% they chose it from the most impoverished districts), according to the newspaper El País.

So what explains Bolsonaro's rise to power? The governments of Lula da Silva, from 2003 to 2010, boosted the Brazilian economy like never before. According to the newspaper El Espectador, the Brazilian growth rate was 4.1% annual growth and the reduction of unemployment to 5.7%, the lowest in history. Also, 29 million people managed to get out of the poverty line.

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All these achievements were overshadowed by a strong recession that occurred during the government of the deposed Dilma Rousseff. Although there were no significant inflation rates, typical of situations like these, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, the truth is that the economy slowed to a growth of 3.8% per year and unemployment reached 11% of the population. The productive sectors felt these blows and probably promoted the political discontent with which they were identified in the last elections.

We must also consider how other stable democracies have elected leaders similar to Bolsonaro. In the United States, with Donald Trump, it is the clearest example of this. Although Latin America is dominated by a right-wing policy, with the victories of Iván Duque in Colombia or Sebastián Piñera in Chile, they can not be compared to the political conditions in Brazil.

What lies ahead cannot be predicted, and there is only a vague idea of what might happen in the areas that most concern the Brazilian opposition. The environment, security, and economy will be the most important gauges when analyzing how Bolsonaro plans to lead the country. As for the social, it will be more difficult to predict, and only the pressure of the Brazilians will be able to take care of what has already been advanced up to now in this matter.


LatinAmerican Post | Iván Parada Hernández

Translated from: 'Cambio radical: Brasil toma un giro hacia la ultraderecha'

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