President Bolsonaro of Brazil is against differences

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President Bolsonaro of Brazil is against differences

Brazil’s weakest people are feeling stress and fear. Kaspar Loftin writes from Brazil’s northeast.


In Sao Paulo, Brazil, on January 29, 2019 Brazil's Homeless Workers' Movement protest for cheaper housing from the President Bolsonaro’s government,. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Jair Bolsonaro is Brazil’s new president. In his first week he dissolved the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture worked to celebrate one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.

Michel Temer was president before him and in his first few weeks he dissolved the Ministry of Women and the Ministry of Racial Equality. Like Temer, Bolsonaro said he dissolved the Ministry of Culture to save money.

But this shows a government that is against differences.

Raisa is an administrator in the Northeastern town of Olinda. She says Bolsonaro is a man that cannot see how privilege protects him.

A congressman for over 25 years, Jair Bolsonaro has been giving his opinions about what he, and a small, far-right group, think is ‘normal’. For him ‘normal’ means a white, heterosexual, Christian, rich male from the South. This is true only of a few people in Brazil, but they are typical of a group that has dominated the country for hundreds of years.

Bolsonaro is stopping ten years of progress for women, low-income, black, and indigenous people, and LGBTIQ groups.

Raisa says the LGBTIQ community saw progress with the Workers’ Party (PT), for example, same-sex marriage in 2013. In 2016 the government of Michel Temer got rid of Workers’ Party President Dilma Rousseff, and progress on women’s and LGBTIQ rights started going backwards.

But in 2018 thousands went to the annual Pride event in the Northeast capital of Recife. The parade along the beach in Boa Viagem was a colourful celebration of the city’s LGBTIQ people.

In 2019 the atmosphere may not be the same as Bolsonaro appointed evangelical pastor Damares Alves as Human Rights Minister. Alves says, ‘Boys wear blue and girls wear pink.’

Middle-class voters liked Bolsonaro’s ideas on violent crime. But most of the violent crime is in poorer, non-white neighbourhoods.

Brazil was the last country in the Americas to stop slavery and non-white people have far lower standards of living and fewer public services. Luis is a black activist from Recife. He says Bolsonaro’s election has created a very dangerous situation for black people.

Non-white Brazilians saw progress with the Worker’s Party such as the introduction of racial quotas in universities and celebration of traditional cultures. Luis says these policies were not strong enough but poverty reduction programmes, such as Bolsa Familia, had a very positive result. Brazilians from the North East say the Workers’ Party changed the poor, dry, starving Sertão. But the country is now going backwards. Paolo Guedes is chief economic adviser and they say his ultra-neoliberal economic policies will hit the weakest people the most.

Luis says the Bolsonaro government is against black people – especially its support for police targeting of young black men. This aggression may also be true for other minority groups and leftist activists. Popular leftwing, black, lesbian councillor Marielle Franco was assassinated in Rio de Janeiro in 2018. This shocked the country, but these murders could become more common. Jean Wyllys is a congressman and openly gay. He left Brazil after death threats. ‘I have to stay alive,’ he said.

Bolsonaro has used violent words when he talks about the political opposition. In December 2018 Rio police stopped a plan to assassinate Marcelo Freixo, a close political friend of Marielle Franco. In the same month two members of the Landless Workers Movement were murdered in the state of Paraíba. Bolsonaro had called them ‘terrorists’.

Bolsonaro says he is ‘different’. His supporters say he is the only ‘clean man’ in politics. But he attacks differences. In December 2018 there was an investigation into payments between members of his family and their driver. His son Flávio is a politician in Rio. Rio’s biggest newspaper O Globo has accused him of having close links to the militia group suspected of the murder of Marielle Franco.

The new president’s extremist ideas and close links to the military are a threat to Brazil’s not very strong democracy.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)