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New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was officially sworn into office on New Year’s Day, confirming that he is determined to rid Brazil of corruption and promised to create a unified society. His racist, homophobic, and misogynistic attitudes made him a highly criticised figure through his campaign, but now he’s in the Palacio da Alvorada in Brasilia and 2019 will be the year for the former military leader to stamp his right-wing authority on the weakened South American state.
Ambitions to defy environmental regulations and sell off huge tracks of the Amazon Rain Forest have been talked about by the new Brazilian President for months now. Just hours after being sworn in, Bolsonaro was again talking about his plans for Brazil’s rain forests. He seems determined to sell off the land and "relocate" the thousands of indigenous peoples living in the rain forests. Perhaps he sees Brazil as an economic powerhouse, selling off the last emblems of the rain forests in order to unify Brazil. He made it sound like these people living peacefully away from mainstream society would be given a choice, but when money is involved, it’s hard to see.
Bolsonaro first entered the inner ring in congress in 1990 and his military career constantly shone through, often campaigning for better wages in the armed forces. He has often shown to be keen on returning to the kind of strict regulations that Brazilians lived under between 1964 and 1985. This is perhaps why he won the election with such a landslide; the people have grown tired of the failings of the left. The rise in crime and corruption in Brazil has led to feral ground for the right to gain support, which has given Bolsonaro the opportunity to take his country as close to the dictatorship days of the mid-20th century. He’s openly admitted he would favour a return to these times: "I am in favour of torture, you know that," he said during a television appearance in 1999. "And the people are in favour of it, too." This was 20 years ago and Bolsonaro has a lot more power this year.
His policy on gun laws have contributed to his nickname of "the Trump of the Tropics." Bolsonaro made it clear that he intended to relax the gun laws in Brazil, feeling that Brazilians should be able to defend themselves. His media presence also mirrors some of what Trump has done, tweeting things such as "Safety is our priority! It is urgent!" on the subject of safety on the streets.
His outlandishly offensive stance on certain groups of society have shown that Bolsonaro is a man determined to reinforce support with the kind of right-wing supporters who got him into power, rather than building any relationships with the centre or left. Some of these comments include saying he wouldn’t rape a female law official because she was "very ugly" and that he would rather a son of his to be dead than to be homosexual. These are but examples of what goes on in the mind of Brazil’s new leader. We may not see much of this rhetoric reflected in the coming months, but the fact that these comments are common knowledge shows a great deal of concern.
Any Brazilian who voted for Jair Bolsonaro in the hope of putting their country back on the world scene for the right reasons, this year will make them realise just how wrong they were. This is a man who has a track record of marginalising and victimising groups from all corners of society, through racism, homophobia, and misogyny—and thanks to the nation's hatred of the left, he has managed to put himself into a position of power. 2019 is going to be a turbulent year for Brazil, for more wrong reasons than right.