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Trump heralds Bolsonaro victory in Brazil

October 29, 2018

Right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro said he would aim to unite a divided country. He has vowed to withdraw government advertising from "lying" media.

Jair Bolsonaro
Image: Reuters/S. Moraes

Jair Bolsonaro's victory in the second round of presidential election voting on Sunday has moved Brazil sharply to the right after four elections won by the left-leaning Workers' Party. Bolsonaro won 55 percent of the votes, with about 45 percent for Workers' Party (PT) candidate Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro said immediately after his victory was announced on Sunday night he would try to "pacify" Brazil after a heated election campaign. He has promised to crack down on violent crime and also advocated torture and killings by police. Bolsonaro shocked many with derogatory remarks on women, gay people and black people. He openly admires Brazil's former military dictatorship and spoke about appointing military men to his Cabinet.

Bolsonaro said on Monday he would withdraw government advertising from "lying" media, in a possible reference to outlets considered critical to his campaign promises. 

Muted and less-muted foreign reactions

The German government said in a statement on Monday that it hoped to maintain a bilateral relationship with Brazil "on the basis of our joint values." Spokesman Steffen Seibert said "it remains to be seen what the policies of the newly elected president will look like."

France's centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile congratulated Bolsonaro on being "elected by the Brazilian people to the presidency," also highlighting the "common values" of the "promotion of democratic principles."

The leader of Italy's right-wing League, Matteo Salvini, welcomed the victory of Bolsonaro: "Brazil and its citizens have sent the left home," he said. "The friendship between our people and our governments will be even stronger." 

US President Donald Trump called Bolsonaro on Sunday and said he had had "a very good conversation" with Brazil's president-elect.  Trump, who was one of the first to congratulate the new leader, spoke of "a strong commitment to work side-by-side" on issues affecting Brazil, the US and beyond, the White House said.

Like Trump, Bolsonaro has suggested he might pull Brazil out of the Paris agreement on climate change and has promised to cut environmental regulations. 

Economic policy the key

Bolsonaro's future chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni said the new administration would focus on economic priorities and give "business more autonomy." 

The new president's first foreign visits will be to Chile, followed by the US and Israel.

Bolsonaro has brought multimillionaire investment banker Paulo Guedes on board as his economic adviser. The 69-year-old Guedes is to become "super minister" for economics.

Brazil has one of the largest budget deficits in the world, at just under 8 percent of GDP in 2017, with national debt amounting to roughly 80 percent of GDP.

Workers' Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad pauses during his concession speech in Sao Paulo
Workers' Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad pauses during his concession speech in Sao PauloImage: picture alliance/AP Photo

Opposition defiant

Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad said he would mount a "vigorous opposition." Haddad said his party would fight on but would respect the country's institutions. "We have the responsibility to mount an opposition, putting national interests, the interests of the entire Brazilian people, above everything." 

Haddad was selected by the PT to run for the presidency in place of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, an ex-president jailed on corruption charges in April and excluded from the race.

Many Brazilians were angry with the Workers' Party for its alleged role in a major corruption scandal, known as "Operation Car Wash."

Read moreUnderstanding the populist narrative

International civil rights groups have expressed concern about Bolsonaro's apparent autocratic tendencies. Human Rights Watch, for example, called on Brazil's judiciary and other institutions to "resist any attempt to undermine human rights, the rule of law and democracy under Jair Bolsonaro's government."

Steve Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund warned that Bolsonaro's promises about the environment would be "dangerous to the planet."

Read more: Experts warn of Bolsonaro threat to the Amazon

kw,jbh/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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