News of Brazil’s recently elected president brought tears, disappointment and anxious calls back home from Brazilian students at Orange Coast College.
Former Army Captain and Congressman Jair Bolsonaro has praised Brazil’s previous military dictatorship, advocated for torture and made threats against his political opposition, the Workers’ Party.
Often referred to as “Brazil’s Trump” by several media outlets, Bolsonaro’s far-right rhetoric includes misogynistic, racist and homophobic statements.
In a country where every citizen over 18 is required to vote, Bolsonaro won the election with 55.1 percent of the votes against Workers’ Party nominee Fernando Haddad.
“I think they kind of saw him as the protector of the nation,” Gabrielle De Sousa, an 18-year-old political science major said. “He said he’s going to fix violence problems, even though his way of ending violence is with more violence.”
During his campaign, Bolsonaro stated that a “good criminal is a dead criminal.”
Sousa worries about Bolsonaro’s radical views and the influence it will have on his supporters. She recalled an incident involving her sisters’ friend, who received threats for being openly gay.
Bolsonaro has stated that he would rather lose his son in a car accident than have him come out as gay, would beat up a gay couple if he saw them kissing in public and said he views having a daughter as a weakness.
He has also made racist comments against black and indigenous communities.
“His voters feel like they can do anything,” Sousa said. “They always had prejudice but they never act on it, now they feel like they can. That’s what scares me.”
The Workers’ Party, a democratic socialist political party, had been in power since 2003 but was ousted in 2016 after the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff as part of the country’s largest corruption scandal.
When former president Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party declared his bid for this year’s election, he was considered the leading candidate until he was imprisoned on corruption charges — ending his candidacy.
“I didn’t quite like the Workers’ Party that was in charge of Brazil, but I can’t be happy with a guy like Bolsonaro winning. I can’t only care about what he’s doing for the country. It really matters for me what he says about people,” Clara Alonso, a 21-year-old graphic design major said.
Campaigning on faith and traditional family values, Bolsonaro promised to improve the economy and put an end to crime and corruption given Brazil’s high crime rates and economic-political crisis.
“They want to see a change, they’re tired of all the corruption and everything,” Joao Rezende, a 19-year-old, business administration major said. “But it’s still so hard to tell if this guy isn’t corrupt because it’s politics and everybody tries to make a little bit of a cash flow.”
Anna Colella, a 26-year-old chemistry major, was relieved to see the Workers’ Party leave. She said she felt a sense of hope for Brazil’s future, and said although Bolsonaro has some strict views on governing, it might be what the country needs. Colella hopes to see him fix unemployment and create economic growth.
With a record homicide rate in the last year, violence has become a commonality in Brazil, and people fear for their security, Rezende explained. Bolsonaro has campaigned on being tough on crime, advocating for gun rights and promising to give police freer reigns.
Alonso, Rezende and Sousa worry for the safety of minorities in Brazil and what the effect of Bolsonaro’s presidency will have on the country. Regardless, they remain hopeful of Brazil’s young democracy.
“Let’s see how it goes,” Rezende said. “He was elected, it’s a democracy and the majority of people voted on him, so now let’s just hope that he can make a decent job at least.”