Far-right pop­ulist closes in on pres­i­dency

The Week (US) - - News 15 -

Brazil­ians have voted in a howl of rage, said O Es­tado de São Paulo (Brazil) in an ed­i­to­rial. Our coun­try has been gripped for years by the mas­sive bribery scan­dal known as Car Wash, which has ex­posed nearly the en­tire po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness elite as ir­re­deemably crim­i­nal. All the while, the mur­der rate has steadily ticked up­ward—it’s now six times that of the U.S., with 175 homi­cides a day—along with the un­em­ploy­ment rate. No won­der vot­ers have turned to the brash Jair Bol­sonaro, who has pledged to tear down an es­tab­lish­ment they see as “vis­cer­ally cor­rupted in pol­i­tics and cus­toms.” A po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect con­ser­va­tive, Bol­sonaro took 46 per­cent of the vote in the first round of the pres­i­den­tial election this week, just short of the 50 per­cent needed for out­right vic­tory. A runoff be­tween the for­mer army cap­tain and se­cond-place Fer­nando Had­dad of the left-lean­ing Workers Party, who took 29 per­cent, will be held in two weeks.

Bol­sonaro is Don­ald Trump “on steroids,” said Luiza Sauma in The Guardian (U.K.). The far-right can­di­date proudly trum­pets his “hate­ful, ill-in­formed views.” He once told a woman law­maker, “I’m not go­ing to rape you, be­cause you’re very ugly,” and said he’d rather his son die in a car crash than come out as gay. Bol­sonaro has com­plained that blacks are lazy and that cops who shoot peo­ple should get medals, not in­ves­ti­ga­tions. He plans to “re­voke the rights of indige­nous peo­ple” and open more of the Ama­zon rain for­est to log­ging and de­vel­op­ment. Most fright­en­ing, though, is his nos­tal­gia for the bru­tal mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, when the press was cen­sored and thou­sands of dis­si­dents tor­tured or killed. Bol­sonaro brags that he is “pro-tor­ture,” and took as his run­ning mate a for­mer gen­eral. If Bol­sonaro wins the runoff, Brazil will re­turn “to the dark­ness of its past.”

He could tri­umph if only be­cause Had­dad is deeply unin­spir­ing, said Folha de São Paulo (Brazil). Had­dad “re­lies ex­clu­sively on the pres­tige of his party’s leg­endary leader,” for­mer Pres­i­dent Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Silva, who couldn’t run in this election be­cause he is in prison for cor­rup­tion. A for­mer mayor of São Paulo, Had­dad has of­fered few ideas of his own—nor has he apol­o­gized for his party’s his­tory of graft and em­bez­zle­ment. Will vot­ers choose him merely to avoid a Bol­sonaro pres­i­dency?

Let’s hope so, said Brasil.El­Pais.com. Had­dad now rep­re­sents not the Workers Party, “but all democrats in Brazil.” Our coun­try may be tired of the Workers Party, but at least it ad­heres to demo­cratic rules: It even handed over power af­ter the nakedly par­ti­san and flawed 2016 im­peach­ment of Lula’s suc­ces­sor as pres­i­dent, Dilma Rouss­eff. Brazil­ians won’t be choos­ing be­tween two can­di­dates when they go to the polls on Oct. 28. They’ll be choos­ing be­tween pro­tect­ing their democ­racy and los­ing it.

Bol­sonaro: A leader of last re­sort?

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