Threats to the Amazon and reliance on retired generals have many worried about political outcomes
JBy Dom Phillips RIO DE JANEIRO air Bolsonaro has made broad promises for his government but offered little detail. And in a country that emerged from military rule only 33 years ago Bolsonaro has prompted concerns with his pledge to include retired generals in his cabinet.
Among the former military officers who played a central role in drawing up his policy proposals are retired generals Aléssio Ribeiro Souto – who has focused on science, technology and education – and Oswaldo Ferreira, who has drawn up plans for infrastructure and the Amazon.
General Augusto Heleno, who ran Brazil’s United Nations mission in Haiti, will be his defence minister and is seen by some as a potential moderating force.
Bolsonaro’s three lawmaker sons – Eduardo, Carlos and Flávio – are also likely to have roles. Marcos Pontes, a Brazilian astronaut, has been touted as minister of science and technology.
Bolsonaro’s alliances with powerful agribusiness, evangelical Christians and armament lobbies give him influence in congress but he has also pledged to avoid horse-trading ministries with parties for support.
Brazil is still reeling from the worst economic downturn in its history, and Bolsonaro’s manifesto promised to “make the necessary adjustments
to guarantee growth with low inflation and job generation”.
A longtime statist, he has converted to liberal economics and chosen Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-educated liberal who co-founded Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual, as his minister of finance.
Guedes defended privatising state companies, reforming Brazil’s expensive pension system and maintaining a 20-year spending cap. But last month Bolsonaro vetoed Guedes’s plans to privatise state-run oil company Petrobras and the electric utilities company Eletrobras.
And while Guedes’s presence helped Bolsonaro get banks and investors behind him, doubts remain over his ability to negotiate the pension reform, which investors regard as crucial to solving Brazil’s soaring public debt.
In a country that saw 63,880 homicides last year, Bolsonaro’s proposals for security were central to his appeal and include chemical castration for rapists, freeing up weapons possession and giving police impunity to kill more criminals – 5,144 people died from police actions in 2017.
His manifesto blames drug crime in five hard-hit states such as Rio on leftist governments and their allies – an ideological approach that offers little in the way of solutions, said Renato Lima, the president of the Brazilian Public Security Forum. Proposals for more investment in equipment, technology and investigative capacity of police forces lack detail and while Bolsonaro’s manifesto says the armed forces should be prepared to combat violence, he does not explain where or how.
“Maybe you can reduce crime, but you will have worse violence. You will worsen violations of rights and the population will continue to be terrified,” said Lima.
The Amazon and the environment
Bolsonaro campaigned on a pledge to combine Brazil’s environment ministry with the agriculture ministry – under control of allies from the agribusiness lobby. He has attacked environmental agencies for running a “fines industry” and argued for simplifying environmental licences for development projects. His chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, and other allies have challenged global warming science.
“He intends that Amazon stays Brazilian and the source of our progress and our riches,” said Ribeiro Souto in an interview. Ferreira has also said Bolsonaro wants to restart discussions over controversial hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, which were stalled over environmental concerns.
Bolsonaro’s announcement last month that he would no longer seek to withdraw Brazil from the Paris climate agreement has done little to assuage environmentalists’ fears.
“We have a serious risk of seeing the deforestation explode and an increase in violence,” said Marcio Astrini, the public policy director at Greenpeace in Brazil.
Bolsonaro has vowed that no more indigenous reserves will be demarcated and existing reserves will be opened up to mining, raising the alarm among indigenous leaders. “We are in a state of alert,” said Beto Marubo, an indigenous leader from the Javari Valley reserve.
Dinamam Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Indigenous People of Brazil Liaison, said indigenous people did not want mining and farming on their reserves, which are some of the best protected areas in the Amazon. “He does not respect the indigenous peoples’ traditions,” he said.
Ribeiro Souto said that under a Bolsonaro government, school curriculums would be revised to remove what he described as the “ideology” left by 12 years of rule by the leftist Workers’ party. Science and technology will be given priority and the “traditional family” will be the focus, he said.
“You have to value the traditional family without abandoning those citizens who do not fit within the aspect of the traditional family,” he said.
Souto said the history of Brazil’s military 1964-1985 dictatorship – during which 400 leftwing activists were killed or disappeared, and thousands were tortured – was a “complex process, traumatic to a certain point”.
But he argued that the history taught in schools should acknowledge what he called the economic successes and institutions created during the dictatorship and show both sides of the story, including around 120 victims of armed leftist groups.
“There were Brazilians fighting for the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. There were Brazilians who were fighting against its implementation,” he said. DOM PHILLIPS REPORTS FROM BRAZIL FOR THE GUARDIAN Bolsonaro and a homophobic wave of hate Page 14
▼ Women protest Bolsonaro in São Paulo before the vote