On October 28th, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian Presidential elections with 55% of the valid votes, 10 million more than his opponent, Fernando Haddad of the Brazilian Labor Party (PT). Superficially, his victory is a simple government change, but it means a whole new chapter in Brazilian history as it is the first true conservative government since 1930. Brazil is passing through a radical change of direction on its political, social and cultural systems.
Since the 1930’s, Brazil has had a massive welfare state system like those adopted by the fascist governments of Europe. Indeed, the system even includes a law written in the 1930’s by the then Brazilian president, Getulio Vargas, which was almost a copy of Mussolini’s carta del lavoro.
Unfortunately, since Vargas’ government the welfare state has continued to grow despite the lack of any real improvement for the population’s daily life. The Brazilian state has become more and more centralized; with heavier and heavier taxes, and an increasingly weaker economy dependent on state aid.
One of the tragic consequences of this mentality was the change of capital in 1960, from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia. Rio is located in the most populated region of Brazil and grew out of natural population movement, the latter was artificially constructed in the middle of Brazil, closer to Amazonian wildlife than the citizens themselves. Moreover, Brasilia was designed as a fortress, with a strategic “perfection” which communist capitals envy.
The communist movements of the 20th century found fertile ground in Brazil. By the 1960’s a communist revolution was imminent, with militia groups trained by Castro’s Cuba. However, there was something the communists didn’t expect when they launched their coup. Even if the Brazilian state was centralized and interventionist, the Brazilian people were very religious and traditionalist. When the first signs of a revolution appeared, large numbers of citizens occupied the streets asking the army to intervene and stop it.
The greatest “March of the Families with God for Liberty,” was held in São Paulo on March 19th,1964. It showed that the population wasn’t ready to adopt the materialist and anti-religious approach of communist ideologies, nor the restriction of liberty it would certainly mean.
As a result, the army took control of the government, officially to avoid communist takeover of Brazil. However, if the moral and cultural ideas of the military class were conservative, their approach on the economy was close to that of the communists. Even when religion and liberty were “guaranteed”, entrepreneurship and free market policies were ignored in favour of massive state control.
The military takeover stopped a probable communist armed revolution. However, by the 1980’s; when the army left government, the socialists – having dropped the “communist” tag – had successfully carried out a long march into the education system, especially university positions, and the media.
After decades of extensive welfare state policies and a military dictatorship seen as the epitome of conservative beliefs, no civil right-wing public personality existed by the 1980’s. Inevitably, in the first free elections after the military dictatorship only left-wing candidates appeared. Some were social-democrats, others radical socialists, but all held left-wing ideas – liberal on moral subjects and interventionist on the economy.
It was during this period, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, first appeared as a left-wing candidate for the Brazilian Labor Party. Lula was too revolutionary for people during his first election attempt so from then on, he presented himself as more moderate – promising no abrupt economic revolution and no radical overhaul of legislation on moral issues.
However, Lula was one of the many representatives of the Latin-American São Paulo Forum. It was founded in 1990 in the city of São Paulo, gathering the major leftist personalities of Latin America to devise strategies to gain power across the continent. The plan was that once a socialist party won power, the victorious party associated with the Forum would help the others to win elections and influence. The ultimate goal was a united socialist Latin America – not unlike the Soviet Union.
They almost achieved this. By 2011, the parties governing Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Peru – most of the major countries of the continent – were members of the Forum. Their strategy was far less explicit than the traditional communists of the 20th century, and it worked.
In Brazil, for example, the Labor Party always avoided moral matters such as abortion and homosexual marriage. When directly asked during campaigns, candidates would state they wouldn’t seek to change legislation on these issues – despite their personal support, due to popular opinion being against them. However, once in power, they would do nothing as legislation protection on these matters was eroded.
However, since the 1990’s, Brazil has suffered from increasing criminal violence, economic crises, and cultural pressure against convictions. In 2005, Lula called for a referendum on the right to buy firearms, trying to approve a bill that would end civilian gun ownership. Although the result showed overwhelming support for gun ownership (64%), a series of governmental campaigns and legislative changes has made it almost impossible for Brazilians to purchase a firearm to defend their families, their businesses or themselves.
Left-wing governments have approved more and more laws protecting those charged with crimes and making it more difficult to convict criminals. In their opinion, criminals are only victims of our capitalist society. This is patently nonsense, and by 2010, 50,000 people were being murdered each year in Brazil. People do not talk on the streets, homes have electric fences and high walls, and no-one leaves home at night. Although it is a major issue, leftists mysteriously never discuss crime during campaigns, always referring to a matter of investing in education when directly asked. The left is content to believe the lie that criminals are bad because they’re stupid and that educated people never commit a crime.
Besides a dreadful approach to crime, the economy has worsened through the tenure of successive left-wing governments. A series of social programs have been developed, giving money to those in need. Millions of Brazilians have benefited from the program called “Bolsa Familia” – Family Benefit. The problem here was that the government, as we say in Portuguese, gave fish instead of the fishing rod, and its fixed help has driven a dependency culture as there is no measure to allow people to move out of the welfare system.
In addition, in 2014, the Public Ministry of Brazil – an independent institution, responsible for investigations into the government and politicians – launched a special operation called Car Wash. This operation discovered many cases of corruption and has been responsible for more than 280 prosecutions. The most famous is that of the former president, Lula, who was held in prison for months and is facing further custodial sentences in ongoing court cases.
The constant failures of successive left-wing administrations have made people become tired of politicians and their speeches. Every government and every policy were more of the same; expansion of the welfare state and creating new social programs. The people were tired of the same failed ideas – that do nothing for the real problems facing Brazilian citizens – and crippling national debt.
In the middle of this cycle of failure, an almost unknown congressman started to attract media attention. Bolsonaro is ex-military and dedicated his parliamentary career to defend the rights of military personnel, which had been under attack from politicians since the end of the military dictatorship.
Bolsonaro appeared in the news for his politically incorrect statements about homosexuality. He was demonised by the media and his fellow politicians for saying that men and women are naturally different. However, the media had forgotten that Brazilians are still deeply religious, and many agreed with Bolsonaro’s opinions. Most Brazilians are Christian (86.8%), are openly against abortion (59%) and opposed to same-sex marriage (half of Brazilians).
His media presence exploded, so much so that during the Presidential election his main opposition, the Brazilian Labor Party, spent millions of dollars but Bolsonaro spent less than a million – almost exclusively on social media. In fact, Bolsonaro is currently one of the most influential heads of state on social media, with almost 33 million followers across several platforms.
His approach to relationships is radically different to previous administration, which spent rivers of money encouraging teenagers to have sex, as long as they used contraceptive methods. Bolsonaro’s approach is called “Everything has its time”, a campaign that encourages young people to wait until they are adults and in a stable relationship before having sexual interactions – whilst still promoting safe-sex measures.
Bolsonaro has improved protection for citizens by increasing support for police investigations and his changes to the law have made it easier to stop crime where it starts – at our borders, where drugs and firearms come into Brazil. It is a measure of his success that in his first year Bolsonaro has reduced the number of assassinations by 22%.
Additionally, he has also reformed the welfare state by reducing its bloated expenditure. Last October, his pension reforms passed through Parliament. Before the changes, Brazilians could retire at the age of 50, 26 years before the average life expectancy of Brazil. After increasing the retirement age, Brazil will save the equivalent to 141 billion euros in the next ten years. Other economic reforms have led to Brazil being the 4th highest recipient of FDI – foreign direct investment – in 2019, and its stock-market broke records almost every month of the year.
The election of Jair Bolsonaro has meant a revolution for Brazil. It is the first time since before 1970 that Brazil has a government which clearly supports the conservative values held by most of the population. It is the first time since 1930 that Brazil has a government which is against a hyper-inflated welfare state. This is clear change of the course for the country and now the population can hope for a brighter future again, after so many years of left-wing hegemony.