Bolsonaro’s Re-election and His Mission to Keep the Right Alive

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, represents the last great bastion of the Latin American right that is experiencing its darkest hours .

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil.

Photo: Reuters

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: La reelección de Bolsonaro y su misión de mantener viva a la derecha

The appointment of Brazilians with the polls is in October, therefore the electoral climate in Brazil is at its maximum. Although nothing has been said, the contest is clear between former president Lula da Silva and the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking re-election. This fact would represent the last hope for the Latin American right, which has in Brazil its last great bastion in the face of its recent failures in Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Mexico, which, with different candidates, have leaned to the left.

Lula vs. Bolsonaro

The Brazilian elections are polarized, the global economic crisis and the social effects produced by the pandemic have taken their toll on the government of Jair Bolsonaro. The current president has led a conservative and even skeptical government on crucial issues such as combating climate change. To this, we can add his deep religious sense that has permeated throughout his mandate. Brazilians have seen in Bolsonaro the culprit of the negative effects of the pandemic and the crisis, which seems to condemn the right in this country and in the region.

Bolsonaro's situation is extremely complicated, his actions on issues such as mining, the protection of the Amazon and its communities, as well as his response to the pandemic, made him an easy target for the Brazilian left, which has found in a renewed Lula da Silva the perfect contender to regain power.

The former president emerged almost unscathed (politically) from the Lava Jato scandal, the one that uncovered a national and international network of corruption at all levels of government. This scandal landed Lula in prison, but he managed to convince the electorate that it was all a political maneuver and not really justice, a fact that catapulted him to the top of the presidential preferences.

Bolsonaro has a difficult outlook, the scandals of his government that also involve his sons with accusations of embezzlement, the end of the Lava Jato investigations and the growing distrust of Brazilians have put him on the edge of the precipice. However, for Bolsonaro all is not lost, according to the consultant and pollster Datafolha, the president was positioned last June in second place with 28% of the preferences compared to 47% for Lula da Silva. Although the numbers are hard, Lula has not reached the 50% necessary to win the first round, taking the decision to the second round. The situation would represent the only opportunity for Bolsonaro, who has appealed to his Christian base and to conservative Brazil, with what he himself calls the "fight of good against evil."

Bolsonaro to Trump

"Good versus evil" is not a free resource, Bolsonaro addresses religious and conservative Brazil, that segment of the population that in the United States gave victory to Donald Trump, an ally of Bolsonaro. The Brazilian president follows in his footsteps, the denial of climate change, xenophobia and economic secrecy seem to be traced to the policy of the former US president. That apparent comfort in which he found himself has been extinguished with the arrival of Joe Biden and the fall of the other bastions of the right in the region. The last thing that Bolsonaro has done in the style of Trump is to cast doubt on the legitimacy and reliability of the electoral system. In this way, it goes preparing the ground to dirty the electoral atmosphere and perhaps even ignore the electoral results of October. Nothing different from what Trump did in his country by putting the democratic stability of the United States at risk.

You can also read: How the crisis in Panama puts world trade at stake

Why is Bolsonaro the Best Bet of the Brazilian Right?

Lava Jato caused an earthquake in Brazilian and Latin American politics, jumping hundreds of names of high-profile politicians in all countries. Brazil was not the exception, on the contrary, it was the epicenter of the disaster, politicians from the right and from the left, including former president Lula da Silva, were affected by the case. This allowed Jair Bolsonaro to reach the presidency freely, nothing prevented him from walking calmly towards the government.

Four years later, the cataclysm that Lava Jato represented has vanished, Bolsonaro's greatest competition on the right could have been Sergio Moro, the architect of the success of the anti-corruption operation and who landed Lula in jail. However, Moro was collapsing with complaints against him for corruption, abuse of his authority and more. This left his attempt to launch his presidential candidacy frustrated. Inside Bolsonaro's party everything is simpler, the best card is always the one in power, changing the candidate could be a sign of weakness and an implicit recognition of the errors of which he is accused. In addition, if Bolsonaro resembles Trump in anything, it is that he would not forget or remain with his arms crossed if he had been denied the candidacy.

The “Deadly Blow” to the Latin American Right

If the left manages to recover the government of Brazil, not only the national defeat will be consummated, but also the defeat at the Latin American level of the right. The largest economy in the region is still the last strategic bastion of the right after falling in Mexico and Colombia, which for the first time are governed by the left. Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Honduras join, in addition to the special cases of Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela. Only Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Ecuador will remain on the right, at least for the time being. Oscillating from right to left and vice versa is not something strange for Latin America. After the first left-wing governments at the beginning of the 21st century came a wave of right-wing governments that could end Bolsonaro, but it is not impossible to think that the trend could be reversed again in the coming years.


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