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White House dismisses comparison between Trump and Brazil’s Bolsonaro

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Jair Bolsonaro protest brazil
A
protester carries a poster against the far-right’s presidential
candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, saying “Not him,” in São Paulo,
September 29, 2018.

Victor
Moriyama/Getty Images


  • Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidency by a wide margin
    on Sunday.
  • Bolsonaro has espoused racist and violent rhetoric for
    years and has drawn comparisons to President Donald
    Trump.
  • Asked about those comparisons on Monday, the White
    House seemed dismissive.

Jair Bolsonaro cruised to an expected victory in the second round
of Brazil’s presidential election Sunday.

Bolsonaro has been a federal legislator in Brazil since the early
1990s, but his positioning as an outsider, as well as his appeals
to law and order, resonated widely in a country where the public
has grown exasperated by politicians’ lack of response to rampant
crime, widespread corruption, and faltering economic performance.

An ultra-rightist who has a long history of racist, misogynist, and
homophobic comments
, Bolsonaro has also drawn comparisons to
President Donald Trump, which the former army captain has
embraced.

Asked about that comparison on Monday, White House press
secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was dismissive, telling
reporters, “There’s only one Donald Trump in my opinion.”


Donald Trump campaign rally
President
Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a campaign rally in
Tennessee in October 2018.

Sean
Rayford/Getty Images


A number of observers have also dismissed the comparison, though
many of them have said Bolsonaro may be a more sinister figure.

Will Carless, a US journalist who documented hate and extremism
in the US and is now based in Rio de Janeiro, said the Brazilian
president-elect “makes Trump look like Mr. Rogers,” pointing to
Bolsonaro’s history of hateful and incendiary comments.

“The Brazilian investigative journalism collective Agência
Pública has
compiled a list of at least 50 attacks
carried out across
Brazil by Bolsonaro supporters. And he is not even president
yet,” Carless wrote earlier this month.

Bolsonaro’s political career has been suffused by praise for the
country’s military dictatorship, which killed hundreds and
tortured thousands between 1964 to 1985. In fact, he has said
military rulers were not violent enough.

“Unfortunately, it will only change the day that we break
out in civil war here and do the job that the military regime
didn’t do, killing 30,000,” he said as a congressman. “If
some innocent people die, that’s fine. In every war, innocent
people die. I will even be happy if I die as long as 30,000
go.”


bolsonaro brazil stab
Brazilian
presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on the shoulders of a
supporter moments before being stabbed during a campaign rally in
Juiz de Fora, September 6, 2018.

Antonio Scorza/Agencia O Globo via
AP


After his win on Sunday, Bolsonaro said his government
would be a “defender of the Constitution, democracy and liberty.”
But he has also said the country’s congress
should be shuttered and that if he was elected he would “start a
dictatorship right away.”

Bolsonaro has surrounded himself with former military
officers. His running mate, Antonio Hamilton Mourão, retired from active duty as a
four-start general in February.

“His distrust of civilian politicians means his Cabinet is
likely to be composed mostly of former military men,” according to Brian Winter, a
Brazil-based correspondent between 2010 and 2015.

Mourão has raised the possibility of “self-coup,” in which the
military could help the president secure greater powers, Winter,
now editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, wrote earlier this month.

Bolsonaro has threatened to subvert checks
on his power by stacking the Supreme Court. (Bolsonaro has
softened his rhetoric in recent weeks, but a strong margin of
victory and a more agreeable congress may mean he doesn’t have to
resort to extreme measures to enact his agenda, Winter adds.)

He has also said he could tell political rivals to choose between
extermination or exile. Police
raids on universities,
purportedly to stop illegal electoral advertising, have
raised concerns about future restrictions on freedom of
expression.


Jair Bolsonaro Brazil military cadets troops
Brazilian
congressman Jair Bolsonaro poses for photos with soldiers and
cadets during a a ceremony commemorating Army Day, in Brasilia,
Brazil, April 19, 2017.

(AP
Photo/Eraldo Peres)


With his ties to segments of the military with political
ambitions, “Bolsonaro conjures up the sort of rule last seen in
Augusto Pinochet’s Chile or interwar Europe,” writes Alex Hochuli, a São
Paulo-based writer and researcher.

Hochuli distinguishes Bolsonaro from current right-wing
parties in Europe. While those parties aim to politicize their
societies, Hochuli writes, “Bolsonarism signifies an attempt, by
the rich and powerful, to sweep away all political division and
to potentially do away with a democracy that includes those they
feel should be excluded.”

“All of which is to say, Bolsonarismo stands alone when
compared to its global far-right peers,” Hochuli adds.

Vincent Bevins, a former correspondent in Brazil for the
Los Angeles Times, also dismissed the comparisons, characterizing a Bolsonaro government
as a “a violently anti-democratic project.”

“What Bolsonaro offers is an explicit return to the values
that underpinned Brazil’s brutal dictatorship,” Bevins wrote earlier this month.
“Bolsonaro did not need to be ‘red-pilled’ to believe that
political correctness had gone too far in today’s Brazil; he has
been consistent in his views for a long time.”

Bevins said a more apt comparison would be to
President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who has presided
over thousands of deaths, many believed to be extrajudicial
killings by police, since taking office in mid-2016.

“And if we’re honest, Duterte’s program was not as
maximalist as this,” Bevins said of Bolsonaro.


jair bolsonaro
Congressman
Jair Bolsonaro holds a Brazilian flag during a protest against
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, part of nationwide protests
calling for her impeachment, in Brasilia, Brazil, March 13,
2016.

Reuters/Ueslei
Marcelino


More violence in Brazil — where there are already more
60,000 homicides a year — is widely expected.

He has endorsed relaxing
restrictions on police and security forces, who already kill
thousands of people a year, and said that criminals “are not
normal human beings,” and that rather than punishment, police
should be heralded if they “kill 10, 15, or 20” at a time.

Just days before the second round of voting, Bolsonaro
told supporters he would purge
“red criminals” and “build a new nation.”

“It will be a cleansing never seen in the history of
Brazil,” he added.

Human Rights Watch has called Bolsonaro “a
pro-torture, openly bigoted member of congress” and called on
Brazil’s institutions to safeguard the rule of law and respond to
threats to democracy.

“This is a really radical shift,” Scott Mainwaring, a Harvard
professor who has studied Latin American politics for decades,
told The Times. “I can’t think
of a more extremist leader in the history of democratic elections
in Latin America who has been elected.”

Trump called Bolsonaro after his victory was announced on Sunday
night.

Both expressed a strong commitment to work side-by-side to
improve the lives of the people of the United States and Brazil,
and as regional leaders, of the Americas,” Sanders said of their
discussion.

Sanders was asked on Monday if the White House would seek
assurances that Bolsonaro’s government would respect human rights
and democracy.

“We promote human rights all over the world. We value our
longstanding relationship with Brazil,” Sanders said. “We want to
continue to be able to work with them, and we’ll see what happens
from there.”

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