Tue, Oct 30, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Brazil elects firebrand Jair Bolsonaro


A supporter of lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party Jair Bolsonaro wears a mask of US President Donald Trump as he celebrates after Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand former army captain, won Brazil’s presidential election in convincing fashion, wooing voters with promises to gut endemic political corruption and wage a brutal battle against powerful drug gangs.

Bolsonaro, who early in his legislative career declared he was “in favor” of dictatorships and demanded that Congress be disbanded, vowed after his Sunday night win to adhere to democratic principles while holding up a copy of the nation’s Constitution.

His transition team was to meet yesterday with Brazilian President Michel Temer’s team to start work ahead of his Jan. 1 inauguration.

Bolsonaro’s win alarmed critics around the globe, mainly because of his vows to sweep away leftist political opponents and his history of making insulting comments about gays, women and minorities.

His victory brings Brazil’s military back into the political limelight after it spent three decades in the barracks following the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship.

Several retired generals are to serve as ministers and close advisers.

“You are all my witnesses that this government will defend the constitution, of liberty and of God,” Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live video in his first comments after his victory.

An outspoken admirer of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro also pledged to realign Brazil with more advanced economies, overhauling diplomatic priorities after nearly a decade and a half of leftist rule.

Trump called Bolsonaro to wish him good luck, auguring closer political ties between the two largest economies in the Americas — both now led by conservative populists promising to overturn the political establishment.

In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday extended its congratulations on its Twitter account: “We congratulate @jairbolsonaro on his victory in #Brazil’s presidential election. The government and people of #Taiwan look forward to stronger relations across the board with the world’s 4th-largest democracy.”

Bolsonaro last visited Taiwan in March as a member of the Brazilian Congress “to get a first-hand understanding of the country’s economic, trade, science and education development,” ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said.

China also congratulated Bolsonaro, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) saying Beijing would continue to “deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and promote common development of both countries to benefit the two peoples.”

Despite Bolsonaro breaking convention with Beijing’s “one China” policy with his visit to Taiwan, Lu said China — Brazil’s largest trading partner — is “willing to continue to work with Brazil” to boost their strategic partnership.

Bolsonaro won 55.2 percent of votes in an election runoff against left-wing hopeful Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT), who garnered 44.8 percent, according to electoral authority TSE.

The 63-year-old congressman’s rise has been propelled by rejection of the leftist PT that ran Brazil for 13 of the last 15 years and was ousted two years ago in the midst of a deep recession and political graft scandal.

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters cheered and set off fireworks outside his home in Rio de Janeiro’s beachfront Barra de Tijuca neighborhood as his victory was announced.

Investors also cheered Bolsonaro’s ascent, relieved that he could keep the PT out of power and hopeful that he would carry out fiscal reforms proposed by his orthodox economic guru.

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