Just a decade ago Brazil’s president Lula da Silva was one of the most progressive and strongly socialist leaders in the recent history of Latin America.
Clearly a lot has gone wrong in Brazil and people feel angry but it is still amazing that people are prepared to elect someone who says that refugees are “the scum of the earth” and is prepared to say “if I see two men kissing each other in the street I’ll whack them.” Even more bizarre was his statement in May 1999 that “I’m in favour of torture.” He also talked about his five kids, saying “four of them are men but on the fifth I had a moment of weakness and it came out a woman” further claiming “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son… I’d rather my son died in an accident than showed up with some bloke with a moustache.”
As a member of Congress and a long-standing defender of the military dictatorship he said in 1993, “Yes, I’m in favour of a dictatorship. We will never resolve grave national problems with this irresponsible democracy.” The truth is the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985 presided over the killing and disappearance of hundreds of progressives, claiming they were trying to save their country from communism.
Bizarrely in the election campaign Bolsonaro called for his left-wing political opponents to be shot but this was just two days before he was stabbed in an assassination attempt at a mass rally. Although this meant he had to spend most of the rest of the campaign confined in hospital, it did not prevent him winning in a landslide and immediately receiving congratulations from Donald Trump. One of Bolsonaro’s first decisions was to do exactly what Trump has done and announce he will move Brazil’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The 63-year-old new president crushed the Workers Party candidate, Fernando Haddad, in the run-off on October 28. One of the main reasons he won so easily was that the former president Lula da Silva was not allowed to run against him because he was imprisoned on charges of corruption. Sergio Moro, the judge who sentenced Lula, has now been rewarded by being appointed the new president’s minister for justice and public security: a good reward as the opinion polls show had Lula been allowed to run he would have won.