Right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to crack down on political corruption, violent crime and ignite a moribund economy with deregulation and fiscal discipline, was sworn in as Brazil’s president on Tuesday (Jan 1).
The former Army captain and seven-term fringe congressman rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to became Brazil’s first far-right president since a military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule three decades ago.
Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly US President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his inauguration.
As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.
Crowds of supporters, many with the Brazilian flag draped around their shoulders and with faces painted yellow and green, the national colours, gathered before the Planalto palace, where later on Tuesday the presidential sash was draped on Bolsonaro.
Backed massively by conservative sectors of Brazil, including Christian evangelical churches, Bolsonaro would block moves to legalise abortion beyond even the current limited exceptions and remove sex education from public schools, opposing what he calls “cultural Marxism” introduced by recent leftist governments.
One-third of his Cabinet are former army officers, mostly fellow cadets at the Black Needles academy, Brazil’s West Point, all outspoken backers of the country’s 1964-1985 military regime.
Bolsonaro, 63, has faced charges of inciting rape and for hate crimes because of comments about women, gays and racial minorities.
Yet his law-and-order rhetoric and plans to ease gun controls have resonated with many voters, especially in Brazil’s booming farm country.
In an interview with Record TV on the eve of his inauguration, Bolsonaro lashed out at Brazil’s notorious bureaucracy, which makes doing business in the country difficult and expensive. He vowed to strip away the so-called “Brazil Cost” that hamstrings private enterprise.