Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 1st, 2020

Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Nut?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 1st May, 2020

BRAZIL-ELECTION-CAMPAIGN-BOLSONARODonald Trump’s COVID-19 press conferences at the White House have raised eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic, not least when he suggested that ingesting disinfectant might be one possible cure. But he is far from alone in his off-message pontificating without a shred of medical expertise. In Brazil, Mr Trump has a mini-me tribute act in the form of President Jair Bolsonaro, who swept to power to take up office last year on a wave of popular anger about the corruption and incompetence endemic in the country’s political landscape. Mr Bolsonaro’s middle name is Messiah (Messias) and many in the Christian fundamentalist community that was a large part of his electoral success believe that that is indeed what he is — destined to clean up what they see as the moral rot that has undermined traditional values of God, family and discipline. The parallels with Donald Trump’s bedrock supporters among US Evangelicals are obvious. And just as President Trump at first dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as “a hoax”, so President Bolsonaro has referred to it as “a measly cold”. The United States has by far the highest incidence of the disease in North America and so does Brazil in South America. Draw your own conclusions. Two weeks ago, Mr Bolsonaro fired his Health Minister for strongly advocating social distancing.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a Soldier's Day ceremony, in Brasilia Mr Trump lambasted the WHO, withdrawing US funding for the body and claiming it badly mishandled COVID-19 at the outset. But Mr Bolsonaro went one stage further, accusing the WHO of promoting homosexuality and encouraging toddlers to masturbate. At least his advisors got him to delete that particular tweet. The Brazilian President has a particular hatred of gays, once declaring that he would rather that a son of his would die than come out as a homosexual. Mr Bolsonaro also loves the military, often expressing nostalgia for the dictatorship than ran the country for 21 years up to 1985. He has a military background himself, though not a very elevated one, and appointed a number of present and former military personnel to his administration. Some political opponents fear he could usher in a new military government if current economic and civil turmoil worsens. But some generals are so concerned about the President’s increasingly bizarre and intemperate outbursts that they would privately quite like him to be pushed out of office. Meanwhile, opposition politicians are trying to get him impeached. There’s a wonderful line in the Brandon Thomas’s classic farce, Charley’s Aunt, when “she” says she comes from Brazil, “where the nuts come from”. But growing numbers of people are worried that this particular nut is ensconced in the presidential palace.

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