BY CHRISTINE XIAO ’21
After weeks of anticipation following the initial Brazilian presidential runoffs, which culminated in results below the threshold majority for any candidate, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro defeated Fernando Haddad to win the Brazilian presidency on Oct. 28. In his victory speech, Bolsonaro called his win a “celebration of freedom: freedom to come and go, walk on the streets, in all places of this country.” He backed up his rhetoric of “freedom being restored” by stating that he would protect citizens who “follow their duties and respect the laws.” The statement seems incongruent with the rest of his behavior, which has leaned towards authoritarianism.
Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters gathered and celebrated the outcome of the election on Sunday night but were met by protestors. The country’s future remains uncertain, but many Brazilian citizens believe that Bolsonaro’s election marks an inflection point of Brazil’s political scene. Bolsonaro’s emphasis on his clean record as well as his vow to ease gun restriction caters strongly to Brazilian citizens after years of extreme anger over government corruption and crime. Brazil’s infamous reputation as a hot bed of police violence and military involvement prompted voters to sway to Bolsonaro’s side, hoping to decrease crime rates with more extreme police action.
Bolsonaro has a large base of support in the police and military because of his policy stances that would grant them more freedom to use guns and more authority over the regulation of civil conflicts and crimes. Bolsonaro’s extremist views regarding police brutality are clear. He said in 2017 that “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman.” However, the validity and effectiveness of such a political decision raises skepticism. Lilian Lin ’21, a Mount Holyoke student taking a Latin American studies course, commented on Bolsonaro’s win. “I know lots of my classmates and professors are concerned about this election result,” she said. “I’m not surprised with this result though. I think it is just a repeating sequence of history. When citizens are suffering from a poor economy and social disorders, they will prefer another strong power to eliminate those issues.”