PBS has created an astoundingly scary documentary on Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil—an account of how this sub-mediocre politician rose from obscurity to run the sixth most populous nation on the planet.
Born in 1955, Bolsonaro came from a very poor family, joined the army, served for a number of years, but only attained the rank of captain, and left the military. He turned to politics in 1991, becoming a federal legislator. He was a fairly non-descript politician except for extreme opposition to socialism and homosexuality, and strong support for the military. In a country with more than 60,000 murder a year, Bolsonaro has made gun ownership easier, advocated chemical castration for rapists, and immunity for police officers who kill criminals. (More than 5,000 people were murdered by cops 2017 alone, so police immunity might not do much to advance that position.).
He came to power through an uncanny combination of factors. He was far behind the extremely popular union leader and former president Lula da Silva in the run for president, but then da Silva was kicked out of the race, unjustly convicted of corruption, and sentenced to 12 years in jail. The conviction was overturned last year, freeing Lula da Silva to run against Bolsonaro for the presidency, with the election scheduled for this October.
But it wasn’t simply the axing of da Silva that enabled this right-wing monster to gain power. Several other events were involved. First, Bolsonaro went on the internet, effectively promoting himself in brief appearances to millions of viewers. Then, a major leader of Brazil’s fundamentalist religious groups, estimated to number total o 65 million, threw his wholehearted support to Bolsonaro. Though Bolsonaro is nominally a Catholic, his third wife is a fundamentalist, and he had himself baptized by full immersion in a stream! Even these events might not have been sufficient to boost his popularity enough to get elected, but then he had the great fortune of getting severely stabbed by a crazed opponent, lost half his blood and almost died. This elevated him to the status of political martyr.
Bolsonaro is quite likely to lose the upcoming election, due to his incompetence as a leader. For example, he delayed distribution of COVID vaccines, and refused to wear a mask, while promoting the quack remedy hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the disease. The Brazilian police have now actually called for Bolsonaro to be charged with spreading fake information about COVID, which has now killed more than 680,000 Brazilians. On top of this, one of his sons was charged with embezzlement and money laundering, while some aides have been accused of assorted forms of corruption. And just yesterday, serious questions were raised about his family’s rather astoundingpurchase of more than 50 properties worth millions.
Btu losing an election might not rid the world of this incompetent fool. He might very well pull a Trumpian refusal to vacate the office if defeated, and has already claimed that voting machines can’t be trusted.