Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Brazil's Very Own Donald Trump

You have probably heard that Brazil’s version of Donald Trump just won a presidential election, by some 10 percentage points. Naturally, American media organs are trying to make sense of it. They have denounced Jair Bolsonaro as an extreme right wing, reactionary populist bigot-- about what you would expect.

And yet, there is more to the story, and at times it seeps through. In The New Yorker Jon Lee Anderson explains that the rise of right wing, aka conservative leaders in Latin America follows upon the manifest failures and overt corruption of left wing leaders:

Bolsonaro’s victory, though not a surprise after his strong lead in the first round of voting, on October 7th, represents a seismic shift in a country that has been governed by the left for most of the past fifteen years—and it further underscores the dramatic rightward trend under way in Latin American politics. At the beginning of the decade, much of the hemisphere was ruled by a like-minded fraternity of left-of-center leaders that included Hugo Chávez, in Venezuela; Cristina Kirchner, in Argentina; and, in Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the head of the Workers’ Party, or PT. Today, Chávez is dead, replaced by the hapless Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuela is in a state of economic and social collapse; the former President Kirchner is facing a corruption trial; and Lula is in prison after being convicted on corruption charges.

You would think that a thoughtful electorate would turn away from the empty promises and false hope of the left. Anderson cannot refrain, however, from denouncing Bonsonaro for being a bigot:

Globally, Bolsonaro’s imminent ascension to Brazil’s Presidency has appended Brazil to the growing ranks of nations ruled by authoritarian populists who openly espouse bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-immigrant views, as well as violence as a means of problem-solving. Bolsonaro, a far-right extremist who has spent years shouting insults from the fringes of Brazil’s politics at women, blacks, gays, and leftists while lauding the use of torture and calling for a restoration of military rule, now represents the new mainstream.

What policies has Bonsonaro offered? Anderson explains:

In other echoes of Trumpish nationalism, Bolsonaro has promised to keep China at bay in Brazil’s energy and infrastructure sectors, and to retreat from Brazil’s multilateral engagements, such as the regional trade bloc known as Mercosur. He has excoriated the United Nations, calling it a “gathering place for communists,” and threatened Brazil’s withdrawal. Bolsonaro promises to align Brazil closely with Trump on foreign policy in other ways, as well. He has promised to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to close down a Palestinian office in Brasilia, and to seek regime change in neighboring Venezuela.

Note well-- this alt-right authoritarian populist bigot has promised to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to close down the offices of Palestinian terrorists in Brasilia. In fact, he is Brazil’s first ardently pro-Israel president. We can't have that, can we?

Anderson reports that Brazilian markets have cheered the advent of their new radical right wing president:

The value of the Brazilian currency and Brazil’s stock market have both soared on Bolsonaro’s rise, spurred, at least in part, by his promises to lift environmental controls and to open up parts of the country—including the protected Amazonian wilderness areas and the indigenous reserves—to development by large-scale mining and agribusiness interests. Reflecting Big Money’s enthusiasm, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal recently hailed Bolsonaro in an editorial entitled “Brazilian Swamp Drainer,” with an opening line that chortles at “global progressives having an anxiety attack” over his looming victory. The editorial goes on to assert that “Mr. Bolsonaro, who has spent 27 years in Congress, is best understood as a conservative populist who promises to make Brazil great for the first time.”

Get that-- since the Wall Street Journal editorialized favorably about Bolsonaro, Anderson needed to suggest that Rupert Murdoch had been giving them directions. He closes by comparing Bolsonaro to the right wing military dictators who ruled Brazil some thirty to forty years ago. One would be hard put to call that anything but bigotry:

Not since the early nineteen-eighties, when much of Latin America was in the grip of anti-Communist dictators who formed a cabal to kill and disappear the hemisphere’s leftists, has a politician emerged with such a vituperous discourse. Indeed, from 1964 to 1985, Brazil was part of that cabal, led by a military dictatorship that claimed the lives of several hundred of its citizens while inflicting torture and imprisonment on many thousands more.

As a coda, I add a remark from an editorial in the New York Times-- which is not owned by Rupert Murdoch. The Times sees some hopeful signs:

Yet in the immediate wake of the election, Mr. Bolsonaro pledged to respect democratic rules. “This government will defend the constitution, democracy and liberty,” he declared. “This is a promise not of a party, not the empty words of a man; it’s an oath before God.”

So far so good. And if he does manage to bring Brazil out of economic crisis, a task likely to be handed to the University of Chicago-trained economist Paulo Guedes, and to bring the crime rate and corruption under control without undermining the rule of law, so much the better. The initial reaction of Brazilian financial markets was a frenzy of stock-buying in the anticipation of policies like selling off inefficient state companies, deregulation and a cut in social spending.

Where have we seen that before?

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I await Paullie "The Beard" Krugman's take.