Brazil has found its Donald Trump in Jair Bolsanaro

Brazil has found its Donald Trump in Jair Bolsanaro

The former army officer, who campaigned as a political outsider despite almost three decades serving in congress, has promised to cure Brazil’s endemic problems of crime, corruption and economic strife.

Now he has to make good on those promises as the world watches whether the angry, uncompromising, far-right rhetoric of the campaign trail is turned into reality.

The indications are that the worst fears of some will be realised.

Mr Bolsonaro has signalled a retreat from policies of environmental sustainability, hugely significant in a country home to most of the Amazon rainforest.

He has promised to increase the rights of Brazilians to own weapons, with who knows what consequences for a country with an already staggering murder rate.

He has also indicated he will support moves to remove discussion of gender and social equality from the country’s schools – and he has moved his country right into lock step with that populist leader to the north.

For example, just before his inauguration, Mr Bolsonaro told the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would follow Mr Trump’s lead and move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

It is as controversial as it is provocative.

Attacks on the media and blocking and banning journalists will not be the only similarities between the administrations in Washington and Brasilia.

In his inaugural address, Mr Bolsonaro told the Brazilian people that they had been “liberated from socialism and political correctness” and that “we have a great nation to rebuild”.

A promise to Make Brazil Great Again, you might think.

He and Mr Trump exchanged warm words, where else but on Twitter, with Mr Bolsonaro vowing “together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people”.

Americans have had two years to assess whether Mr Trump has delivered on his promises and whether they like the reality of the ‘strongman’ posturing. Now Brazilians get their chance with Mr Bolsonaro.

They looked past his history of outrageous remarks, giving ammunition to those who accuse him of being sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-democratic.

Some could pay heavy price for that gamble.

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