‘Trump of the tropics’ spells more trouble for China and beyond

  • Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president-elect, is from the same mould as the American leader and his far-right views and inflammatory language are not welcome at a time when the world order is under threat
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 11:29pm

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president-elect, is known as the “Trump of the tropics” for good reason. He has adopted the same political strategy as the American leader, even down to taking a jaundiced view of his country’s biggest trading partner, China. His election sets the world’s fifth most populous nation on an uncertain course, with trading partners, opponents, women, ethnic groups, the LGBT community and environmentalists especially worried. Like the ever-growing list of far-right populists from nations around the world who have taken advantage of discontent with government and the establishment to rise to the highest office in the land, his outlook and beliefs are troubling and dangerous.

Trump’s brashness and anti-establishment views are admired by the far right and its leaders have embraced his style and tactics. For Bolsonaro, who openly praises Donald Trump and has spoken glowingly of the two decades under which Brazil was harshly ruled by the military, that has meant outrageous comments; he has said that a female colleague in parliament is too ugly to even rape and global warming is a hoax. Such remarks would ordinarily not elicit support, but Brazilians have had enough of corruption in government and a serious law and order problem that leaves more than 60,000 people dead each year. His left-wing challenger for the presidency had little chance in Sunday’s run-off vote, representing a party with one former president in jail for graft and another having been impeached.

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Bolsonaro wants police to be able to more easily open fire on suspects and gun control laws changed so that Brazilians can better arm themselves. He claims environmentalists in the Amazon jungle are holding back development and intends to scrap rules and, like Trump, pull Brazil out of the Paris climate change pact and withdraw from other multilateral bodies and deals. During campaigning, he had especially harsh words for China, depicting it as an economic predator seeking to dominate key sectors by buying energy and infrastructure companies, although he is still eager to sell commodities such as soybeans.

Brazil is a democracy and only its people have the right to choose their leader; it is how far-right governments and people with extremist and radical views like Trump’s have taken power or made significant electoral advances in the Philippines, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, among others. Voters have been driven by disquiet over a variety of factors and lured by populists who have resorted to inflammatory language and hate speech. Such tactics for the sake of short-term political gain are lamentable, particularly when they lead to nations being divided, trade and globalisation affected and the world order threatened.