Who is Jair Bolsonaro, the “controversial” president of Brazil?

Jair Bolsonaro is the current Brazilian president who has been in power since 1 January 2019. He also served in the Brazilian Army from 1973-1983 with the rank of Captain. Known for his rightist policies and statements, he has been vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, abortion, affirmative action, drug liberalization and secularism.

He first joined politics in the year 1988 and ran for the Rio de Janeiro City Council that year, elected as a member of the Christian Democratic Party. First elected as member of lower chamber of Congress in 1990, since then he has been reelected six times. He has been both popular and criticized figure in his 27 year tenure as a congressman. In 2018 Brazilian general election campaign, he started to speak to and back the economically liberal and pro- market policies.

In March 2016, Bolsonaro announced that he”ll be a running for the president as a member of the Social Christian Party. He left the party in 2018 and joined the Social Liberal Party, and then he kick started presidential campaign in August that year. He potrayed himself as an outsider and a supporter of family values. After defeating Fernando Haddad, the president candidate of Workers Party who came second with 45.9% votes, Bolsonaro sworn in as Brazilian president on New year’s day in 2019.

Bolsonaro appointed many military officers as cabinet minister and gave them key positions.He left Social liberty Party after having some ideological issues with the other members of the party and formed his own party named Alliance for Brazil. Over his presidency tenure, he was able to recover Brazil from economic crisis and also crime rates also got sharply deflated.

Although some positives have been there but it overshadows the negative decisions and statements he has given since becoming the president of Brazil. During the presidency, he rolled back the protections given to the indigenous groups in the Amazon rain forest and also faced heat from the international community in 2019, when he told that Brazil dosen’t have resources to fight the forest fire and and the reports of fire and deforestation of Amazon rainforest are fake.

Jair Bolsanaro with his supporters during his presidential campaign in 2018.

Before the start of August 2019, Bolsanaro mocked international and environmental groups who held Bolsanaro responsible for his pro-buisness actions which were causing deforestation in Amazon rainforest. Bolsanaro also fired Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, the director of INPE,the space agency of Brazil. He was fired because he had a public disagreement with the Bolsanaro regarding the increase in deforestation and wildfires in Amazon rainforest. Bolsanaro simple labelled his statements as “anti-Brazil campaign” and told the reports were fake. There were lot of protests by the people throughout the world and especially from the Brazilians against the Brazilian government because of their handling of the situation.

In 2020, he was featured frequently in news because of his handling of Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil. He simply said in statement that the the threat of Covid-19 is exaggerated by the media. He opposed all proposals of suspension of the interstate travel with covid cases and closure of businesses. He said that extreme measures would hurt the economy of the country.

Some statements he said on Covid 19 were just absolutely bizarre and horrendous which brought him international criticism.

In a press briefing on 27 March 2020, he said that Brazilians “never catch anything” and it was a possibility that portions of population are already immune. Even after getting Covid positive on July 7, he said that there is no reason for fear, that’s life. He also said that majority of Brazilians have contracted this virus and “didnt notice a thing”.

On 27 November, Bolsanaro promoted the efficacy of any Covid-19 vaccine that is approved by the Brazil’s health agency but he simply rejected the idea of taking a dose of any vaccine. He also said that masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of virus and called it “the last taboo to fall”. An investigation showed that Bolsanaro repeatedly refused to buy the Pfizer although they were offering the Brazilian government in discounted price. In June, 2021 he bought Indian made vaccine, Covaxin at elevated prices.

Till now 5,61,762 people have died due to Covid-19 and still Bolsanaro has downplayed the threat level of the Covid. A poll was conducted in which 64% people were displeased with the way Bolsanaro handled the pandemic, while 44.8% supported his impeachment.

Recently, few days ago he gave a statement that everyone in Brazil should buy a rifle during a meeting with his supporters outside the Alvavorada Palace. Bolsonaro has tried to change the guns law to allow more Brazilians to buy guns for self defense. He said that those who oppose guns should stop nagging the gun buyers.

His delusional approach towards next year presidential elections was again reflected when he said that he sees only three alternatives for his future that are “being arrested, killed or to win the presidential elections” in remarks to a meeting of evangelical leaders. Bolsonaro also added that the first option is out of question because “no man on earth will threaten me.” Bolsonaro remarks come as he has been questioning Brazil’s electronic voting system which according to him is vulnerable to fraud. He said that he will not accept next year presidential elections if the the system of printed receipts are not adopted by the electoral court. Balsononaro trails former leftist president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in most polls.

In my opinion, Bolsonaro has always been a controversial figure in Brazilian political domain and the decisions taken by him for welfare of Brazilians has come under lot of criticism although there has been ray of hope with decisions regarding promotion of production of goods in Brazil and also Brazil’s agriculture sector has been booming with harvest of national grain breaking records each year under his presidency. There has been reduction in the crime rate under his presidency which is also a positive sign.

Although his absurd, delusional policies and statements have outweighed all his good decisions. His handling and naive statements about the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon Rainforest wildfires and his policy making regarding the guns law in Brazil has surely angered lot of Brazilians which made him unpopular for the next presidential term.

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