‘Miss­ing de­tails’

Threats to the Ama­zon and re­liance on re­tired gen­er­als have many wor­ried about po­lit­i­cal out­comes

The Guardian Weekly - - The Big Story -

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.

The econ­omy

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.

In­dige­nous peo­ples

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

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