Monday, October 29, 2018

Bolsonaro Part 1: Jair Bolsonaro: Elected Extremist

As news yesterday filtered in that Jair Bolsonaro would win the election, I thought of something that then Scott Mainwaring then articulated in The New York Times:

“This is a really radical shift,” said Scott Mainwaring, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government who specializes in Brazil. “I can’t think of a more extremist leader in the history of democratic elections in Latin America who has been elected.”
Latin America has its fair share of extremists, but they've all taken power undemocratically. You may disagree with a president's policy views but before Bolsonaro I don't think anyone had called for clearly for violence. Patrice McSherry tagged me on Twitter with a recent Bolsonaro speech, where he kept using the word "cleansing" and there are plenty of groups he wants to cleanse.

Elected presidents on the right haven't talked quite like that. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada is wanted in Bolivia for ordering security forces to attack protesters, but murder and cleansing wasn't his actual goal. Alberto Fujimori was on the right wing fringe (though in fact many of his years in office were not from free elections) but he'd be at least a solid comparison. Otto Pérez Molina was implicated in serious human rights abuses before he was president, though as president his mano dura policies did not seem on the same scale as Bolsonaro's rhetoric. There are more examples, but I think the basic point is that the elected right in Latin America has at times been very violent, and Bolsonaro's own rhetoric is even worse.

In short, the way he talks and the things he advocates seem much more akin to the unelected military dictators that have plagued the region. Those are the dictatorships we discuss in class to highlight concrete examples of genocide, torture, murder, coups, etc. and the people of Brazil decided that's what they prefer.

Now we will have two months of speculation. On January 1, 2019 we will find out what the most extremist elected leader in Latin American history will do.


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