6 Reasons Why the Most Hated Politician in Latin America Became President of Brazil
6 Reasons Why the Most Hated Politician in Latin America Became President of Brazil by Jean Vilbert for Mises
Jair Bolsonaro is likely to be the most despised politician in Latin America. At least among a certain portion of the population. Some say he is the “Trump of the tropics” — in a pejorative way, of course. Nonetheless, he was elected president of Brazil. So how could that happen? How could a “homophobic, misogynist and racist ‘thing’” (according to a piece published in The Guardian) become Brazil’s leader?
There are several reasons why.
One: He Has Good Timing
The 14 years of Brazilian Workers’ Party’s tenure (2003–2016) ended on a sour note. This was the time of Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff was found guilty of breaking budget laws and was removed from office (impeached) in 2016. Lula was convicted of money laundering and corruption and was sentence to jail time in 2018. As both Lula and Rousseff had been elected on the promise to clean up corruption, many Brazilians felt deceived.
To make things worse, the country plummeted into a financial crisis. The public debit reached an incredible 73.44 percent of GDP in 2016. Between 2014 and 2017, the unemployment rate rose sharply from 6.67 percent to 12.83 percent (and nearly 13 million people became unemployed). The crime rates increased to among the highest in the world — and no fewer than 63,880 Brazilians were killed in 2017.
A significant change seemed to be on the horizon.
Two: A Different Agenda
Around 2015, many Brazilians started to claim that the social-market model put into play by the Workers’ Party had failed. An uneasy feeling of economic hangover was felt — a kind of public-expenditure-spree aftermath. Here and there, voices begun to question the notion that government interventionism was responsible for the prosperity Brazil had enjoyed in the early-2000s. Some timidly began to make the case for capitalism, naming markets (the commodity boom, the growth of the industry and the increase in the service sector) as the realcause of the consequent reduction of poverty.
As a result, many voters turned to Jair Bolsonaro, a candidate with no money (with very modest campaign expenditures), no time on TV (just a couple of seconds), and no political capital (distance from the big parties). In short, no realistic chance of winning. At least, that is what the media and its specialists said at the time.
So, the country was eager for a swing toward the economically liberal end of the spectrum (for the motives outlined above) and Bolsonaro appeared to be the only one willing to do that. Many Brazilians decided to ignore his faults (even some serious ones) in the hopes of putting through true economic reform.
Is Bolsonaro the ideal politician? He is far from that. This feeling appears to be almost a consensus. Indeed, he leaves much to be desired. Most Brazilians who supported him do not appear to agree with his collection of harsh and controversial statements on a variety of issues.
But, why support him at all?
Regardless of all the controversies surrounding him, perhaps the main factor for Bolsonaro’s victory is quite straightforward: he was the only one who promised to bring back to life long-denounced policies (still unspeakable for some), such as less government intervention in the economy, reduction in taxes, and cuts in government spending. He also supported a sizable anti-crime package.