What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil is another big win for populism

With a history of racist, homophobic and misogynistic remarks, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was elected president last Sunday of Latin America’s biggest country, campaigning as an antidote to a political class embroiled in corruption scandals. The victory was the latest amid growing support for extreme political leaders across the world. Ernesto Londoño of the New York Times joins Megan Thompson for more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    While Tuesday's midterm elections have consumed attention in this country, an extraordinary election took place last Sunday in Brazil. Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro was elected as that country's next president. Known for his extreme views and history of racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks, Bolsonaro's election is part of a larger rise of far-right politicians around the globe. Ernesto Londoño is the New York Times Brazil bureau chief, he joins me now via Skype from Rio de Janeiro.

    So I understand that until recently few people thought that Bolsonaro could be elected because he is so extreme. Can you just tell us a little bit about him?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    Jair Bolsonaro is a former Army captain. He's been in Congress for three decades and within Congress he was a pretty marginal figure. He was somewhat of a provocateur who was known for saying incendiary, extraordinarily offensive and politically incorrect things.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Talk to me a little bit more about the struggles that Brazil has seen in recent years. What are the conditions there that led to his election?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    Well, last year Brazil had a record number of homicides – 63,000 people were killed here violently last year. That is an extraordinary figure and it has come to really shape the way Brazilians think about the future and think about their options. On the other hand, much of the political elite, many of parties that have become, you know, sort of the ruling class, if you will, for the past couple of decades became ensnarled in this massive corruption investigation that exposed Brazilian congress and many of the top companies in the country, as you know, essentially pervasively and institutionally corrupt.

    Jair Bolsonaro came out and said, look you know, how many lawmakers can claim that they have absolutely no allegations of graft to their name? You know, I am clean and I am not going to spare anybody in my quest to restore order and to upend status quo in Brasilia that made the capital such a hot bed of corruption.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    In terms of the violent crime problem, what are the types of things that he's advocated doing?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    Rio de Janeiro and many of the larger cities in Brazil are cities where the police is extraordinarily violent, where there's historically been a shoot first, ask questions later approach. In Rio Janeiro, so far this year, roughly one out of four person killed violently has been killed at the hands of the police. Jair Bolsonaro and his allied governors and his allied lawmakers are saying we're going to just ratchet up that couple of notches further.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    I understand there there have been protests since his election last weekend. Tell me about those?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    You know, the incoming president has said he is no fan of affirmative action and he has a long history of speaking critically and derisively of members of the gay and transgender community, of women, and of indigenous communities. So people in those groups, many of them are saying, you know, how are we going to protect ourselves in this era and are our rights that have been, you know, hurt for the past few decades, going to be safe in a Bolsonaro administration?

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Brazil, as you have reported, is dealing with a migrant crisis on its border with Venezuela. Did that play a role in Bosonaro's election?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    You know, he was also running against a leftist rival and he told voters that a vote for his rival amounted to putting Brazil on the path Venezuela is in. One thing I think we can safely expect in a Bolsonaro ministration is a far harder line toward the government in Venezuela, which historically has been an ally of the Brazilian government. You know, just what shape it's going to take and just what Mr. Bolsonaro is going to be willing and able to do to squeeze the Maduro administration in the neighboring country remains to be seen. But if he sticks to his rhetoric and his policy matches its rhetoric, you know, I think we're going to see some real friction and tension in the months ahead.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    What other indications are there of what to expect from him in his first weeks as president?

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    I think one thing that is fascinating and remarkable is that the U.S.-Brazil relationship for many years has been strained by one, two or three thorns and it always seemed to get in the way of the better relationship. In Bolsonaro you have somebody who is remarkably aligned with President Trump, both temperamentally and in terms of his world view. So I think we can expect somebody who's going to work very collaboratively with a Trump administration and is going to want to position himself as an ally on a range of matters. For instance, taking a more skeptical view of the role of China in the region and perhaps taking a harder look at the trade relationships.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Ernesto Londoño of the New York Times, thank you so much for joining us.

  • ERNESTO LONDOÑO:

    My pleasure.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest