Brazil's Bolsonaro struggles to allay fears of military coup

Published 10.10.2018 00:00
Updated 10.10.2018 00:17

Brazil's leading presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro said in an interview aired on Globo TV that he posed no danger of a coup and that he was seeking office by the ballot only, working to allay fears about his past praise of military dictatorships, as reported by Reuters.

Many are concerned that his veneration of the armed forces, including his praise of the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship, signal that he will erode democratic values and rule with an authoritarian hand. He has said he will surround himself with former military officers, like his running mate who is a retired general.

In 1993, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro strode to a podium in Brazil's lower house and delivered a speech that shook its young democracy: He declared his love for the country's not-so-distant military regime and demanded the legislature be disbanded.

"Yes, I'm in favor of a dictatorship!" Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, thundered at fellow lawmakers, some of whom had joined guerrilla groups to battle the junta that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. "We will never resolve grave national problems with this irresponsible democracy!"With his pledge of "Brazil above all," Bolsonaro has catapulted from the fringes of Congress, where he served as a member of marginal parties for 27 years, to a stone's throw from the presidency. A rabble rouser who has reminisced fondly about dictatorship and promised an all-out war on drugs and crime, he just missed outright victory in Sunday's vote and will face former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers' Party in an Oct. 28 runoff.

Bolsonaro's party took a whopping 52 seats in the lower house of Congress — up from just one in the last election — giving it 10 percent of that house and making it the second-largest party after the Workers' Party, with 56.

The election was a seismic shift for this nation of more than 200 million people, where the left has won the past four elections but deep divisions have opened in the wake of a massive corruption scandal and the 2016 impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil's move fits into a global trend among voters — in the United States and Europe, among other places — who are choosing anti-establishment and often far-right or populist candidates who target minorities and promise a return to "traditional values." Some pundits call Bolsonaro a "Tropical Trump" because of his large social media following, pugnacious demeanor and multiple wives. Steve Bannon, the U.S. president's campaign guru, has likewise advised Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has often praised Donald Trump, and his campaign took many pages from the U.S. president's playbook, from his echoing of Trump's "America First" slogan, to bashing the mainstream media to using the candidate's adult children as proxies.

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