“I am in favor of a dictatorship,” boasted Jair Bolsonare, a far-right presidential candidate who scored an outright victory in Brazil’s first round of voting on Sunday.
Named the “Trump of the Tropics” by Brazilian media, Bolsonaro indeed runs his campaign on similar premises as did U.S. President Donald Trump—xenophobia, misogynism, anti-establishment appeals and a populist conservative platform.
Bolsonaro is arguably one of the most hateful and anti-democratic politicians in the world.
With a history of offensive remarks regarding women, racial minorities and the LGBT community, he once shockingly told a Brazilian congresswoman that she was not good enough to deserve his rape.
“I would not rape you. You don’t merit that,” Bolsonaro shouted to Maria do Rosário from the Workers’ Party in the middle of a congressional meeting in 2014. She was defending a report documenting the prevalence of rape under the U.S.-backed dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
In another instance, when Brazil’s former President Dilma Rousseff promoted a school program to teach children to tolerate homosexuality, Bolsonaro contended that it was only because she was a lesbian. He also infamously called eleonora Menicucci, the Minister for Women’s Policy, a “big dyke.”
The former military officer also never shied away from voicing his admiration for military dictatorships. In fact, he served as an army captain during the country’s dictatorship era which witnessed the murder of 434 Brazilians of the torture of thousands.
Disillusioned with the corrupted national government and angered by the country’s poor economic performance, millions of Brazilians discarded the Worker’ Party—the ruling party from 2003 to 2016— and jumped on board Bolsonaro’s radical platform. The possible deprivation of civil and political liberties is a price they are willing to pay.
“You have to consider what were the best times for Brazil,” Georgewlany Smith, a 61-year-old public servant in Rio de Janeiro, told the New York Times. “Unfortunately it was the dictatorship.”
Smith’s sentiments parallel those of Brexit advocates in the U.K. and Trump supporters in the U.S. Nostalgia for the past is becoming a powerful rhetorical device that populist leaders all over the world readily exploit for political gains.
At the forefront of a nation-wide conservative movement, Bolsonaro is not, however, endorsed by any major political parties. He did not even have a running mate until early August.
Neither did he receive much political contributions from traditional donors. By September, his opponent Fernando Haddad has spent $6.3 million on the campaign whereas Bolsonara has only spent $235,000. The meager amount of money at his disposal mostly came from his fundraising projects on social media.
“For someone with no TV time, a small party, no political funds and who has been hospitalized for 30 days, this is a great victory,” said Bolsonaro—stabbed on the campaign trail last month—in a Facebook post.
Bolsonaro’s unexpected popularity presents a daunting task for the left-wing Workers’ Party to win more support in the second round of voting.
Fernando Haddad was hardly the party’s first choice. He only won a spot on the ballot due to the imprisonment of Lula da Silva—Brazil’s former president for two terms—on charges of corruption and money laundering.
A former education minister and mayor of São Paulo, Haddad is unknown to the majority of voters and lacks the charisma that characterizes Bolsonaro’s campaign.
As he is currently 17 percentage points behind his opponent, the prospect of his victory seems not to be optimistic.
Featured Image via Reuters/Pilar Olivares