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Jair Bolsonaro

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Jair Bolsonaro
2020-03-24 Pronunciamento do Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro em Rede Nacional de Rádio e Televisão - 49695919452 (cropped 2).jpg
Bolsonaro in March 2020
President of Brazil
Assumed office
1 January 2019
Vice PresidentHamilton Mourão
Preceded byMichel Temer
President of the Alliance for Brazil
Assumed office
21 November 2019
Vice PresidentFlávio Bolsonaro
General SecretaryAdmar Gonzaga
Preceded byPosition established
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
1 February 1991 – 1 January 2019
ConstituencyRio de Janeiro
Member of the
Municipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro
In office
1 January 1989 – 1 February 1991
Personal details
Jair Messias Bolsonaro

(1955-03-21) 21 March 1955 (age 65)
Glicério, São Paulo, Brazil
Political partyIndependent (2019–present)[a]
Other political
  • PSL (2018–2019)
  • PSC (2016–2018)
  • PP (2005–2016)
  • PFL (2005)
  • PTB (2003–2005)
  • PP (1995–2003)
  • PPR (1993–1995)
  • PP (1993)
  • PDC (1988–1993)
Rogéria Nantes Braga
m. 1978; div. 1997)
Ana Cristina Valle
m. 1997; div. 2007)
m. 2007)
ResidencePalácio da Alvorada
EducationAgulhas Negras Military Academy
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
Allegiance Brazil
Branch/serviceBrazil Brazilian Army
Years of service1973–1988
RankBarzil-Army-OF-2 (horizontal).svg Captain
Commands21st Field Artillery Group
9th Field Artillery Group
8th Parachutist Field Artillery Group

Jair Messias Bolsonaro (Brazilian Portuguese: [ʒaˈiʁ meˈsi.ɐz bowsoˈnaɾu, ʒaˈiɾ -]; born 21 March 1955) is a Brazilian politician and retired military officer who is the 38th president of Brazil. Elected in 2018 as a member of the conservative Social Liberal Party before cutting ties with them, he has been in office since 1 January 2019. He previously served in the country's Chamber of Deputies, representing the state of Rio de Janeiro between 1991 and 2018.

Bolsonaro was born in the town of Glicério, in the state of São Paulo. He graduated from the Agulhas Negras Military Academy in 1977 and served in the Brazilian Army's field artillery and parachutist units. He became known to the public in 1986, when he wrote an article for Veja magazine criticizing low wages for military officers, after which he was arrested and detained for fifteen days. One year later, he was accused by the same magazine of planning to plant bombs in military units, which he denied. After a first degree conviction, he was acquitted by the Brazilian Supreme Military Court in 1988.[2] He joined the reserve army in 1988 with the rank of captain and ran for the Rio de Janeiro City Council that same year, being elected while a member of the Christian Democratic Party. Bolsonaro was elected in 1990 to the lower chamber of Congress and was subsequently re-elected six times. During his 27-year tenure as a congressman, he became known for his strong support of national conservatism. He is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and homosexuality,[3][4] abortion,[5] affirmative action,[6] drug liberalization[7] and secularism.[7] In foreign policy, he has advocated closer relations to the United States[8] and Israel.[9] During the 2018 presidential campaign, he started to advocate for economic liberal and pro-market policies.[10] A polarizing and controversial politician, his views and comments, which have been described as far-right and populist in nature, have drawn both praise and criticism in Brazil.[11][12][13][14]

Bolsonaro announced his intention to run for president in March 2016 as a member of the Social Christian Party.[15] However, he left the party in 2018 and joined the Social Liberal Party, and then launched his presidential campaign in August of that same year, with retired general Hamilton Mourão as his running mate. He portrayed himself as an outsider and a supporter of family values. He came in first place in the first round of the general election on 7 October 2018, with Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad coming in second place. The two candidates faced a run-off on 28 October 2018, and Bolsonaro was elected with 55.1% of the popular vote.

Bolsonaro placed army officers in key positions in his cabinet. Prior to his inauguration, he stated he would fill positions in his government based on technical qualifications rather than ideological sympathy. Despite this, during his presidency, many appointees saw themselves clashing ideologically with the government. His ministers of Justice and Education, the Secretary of Government, and the Postmaster General, among others, fell out of favor with the president.[16] Bolsonaro focused on domestic affairs in his first months in office, dealing primarily with the fallout of 2014 Brazilian economic crisis. In his first year in office, the economy did recover, albeit slowly, while crimes rates fell sharply.[17][18] Multiple controversies marked the first years of his administration. In 2019, Bolsonaro left his party amid a confrontation with other members, and formed his own political organization. During his presidency, he rolled back protections for indigenous groups in the Amazon rainforest[19] and facilitated its destruction through deforestation.[20] Bolsonaro's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil was criticized across the political spectrum: he sought to downplay the pandemic and its effects, opposed quarantine measures, and fired two medically qualified health ministers, while Brazil's death toll increased rapidly.[21] As a result, public opinion, which had been favourable towards him during his first year in office, turned negative throughout 2020.[22]

Early life

Bolsonaro was born on 21 March 1955 in the town of Glicério, in São Paulo,[23] in the southeast region of Brazil, to Percy Geraldo Bolsonaro and Olinda Bonturi.[24][25] His family is mostly of Italian descent, with some German ancestry. On his father's side, he is the great-grandson of Italians from Veneto and Calabria.[26] Bolsonaro's paternal grandfather's family comes from Veneto, more precisely the city of Anguillara Veneta, in the province of Padua. His great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro (the surname was originally written with a Z), was born on 12 April 1878. Vittorio's parents immigrated to Brazil when he was ten, together with his little siblings, Giovanna and Tranquillo.[27][26] His German ancestry came from his father's maternal grandfather, Carl "Carlos" Hintze, born in Hamburg around 1876, who immigrated to Brazil in 1883.[26] His maternal grandparents were born in the Italian city of Lucca, in Tuscany, and went to live in Brazil in the 1890s.[26]

Bolsonaro spent most of his childhood moving around São Paulo with his family, living in the cities of Ribeira, Jundiaí, and Sete Barras, before settling in the town of Eldorado, in the southern region of the state, in 1966, where he would grow up together with his five brothers.[28]

His first name is a tribute to Jair da Rosa Pinto, football player for Palmeiras at the time of Bolsonaro's birth and who celebrated his 34th birthday on the same day.[29][30]

Military career

Jair with his parents at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy in 1979
Bolsonaro in 1986

In his final years in high school, Bolsonaro was admitted to the Escola Preparatória de Cadetes do Exército (the prep school of the Brazilian Army), where he entered in 1973. In 1974, he went to the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (Brazil's main military academy), graduating in 1977, as an Artillery officer. He served in the 9th Field Artillery Group, in Nioaque, Mato Grosso do Sul. Later he studied at the Army Physical Training School in Rio de Janeiro and served in the 21st Field Artillery Group and the 8th Paratrooper Field Artillery Group, from the Paratrooper Brigade, both in the same city. His superior officers described him as "aggressive" and having an "excessive ambition to get financial and economical gain".[11][31] The assessment referred to Bolsonaro's attempt to mine gold in Bahia state; according to him, the activity was only a "hobby and mental hygiene". In 1987, he studied in the Officers Improvement School, where he made the Artillery Advanced Course.

Bolsonaro's first rise to publicity came in 1986 when he gave an interview to the news magazine Veja. He complained about low salaries in the military and claimed that the High Command was firing officers due to budgetary cuts and not because they were displaying 'deviations of conduct', as the command was telling the press.[32] Despite being reprimanded by his superiors, Bolsonaro received praise from fellow officers and wives of military men, becoming a household name for a lot of hardliners and right-wingers who were growing disenchanted with Brazil's new civilian democratic government.[33]

In October 1987, Bolsonaro faced a new accusation. The same Veja magazine reported that, with an Army colleague, he had plans to plant bombs in military units in Rio de Janeiro. After Bolsonaro called the allegation "a fantasy", the magazine published, in its subsequent edition, sketches in which the plan was detailed. The drawings had been allegedly produced by Bolsonaro himself. Official records unearthed by the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo in 2018 detailed the case.[34] After an investigation by an administrative military bureau named Justification Board, Bolsonaro was unanimously considered guilty. According to this board, Bolsonaro had a "serious personality deviation and a professional deformation", "lack of moral courage to leave the Army" and "lied throughout the process" when denying frequent contacts with the Veja magazine. The case was then analyzed by the Supreme Military Court. The General in charge of reporting the case voted for his acquittal, arguing that Bolsonaro had already been penalized for the initial article in Veja, that there was no testimonial evidence of his plans to plant bombs and that there were "deep contradictions in the four graphological exams", two of which failed to conclude that Bolsonaro was indeed the author of the sketches. He ended up acquitted by the majority of the court (9 x 4 votes). In December 1988, just after this ruling, Bolsonaro left the Army to begin his political career. In total, he served in the military for fifteen years, reaching the rank of Captain.

Political career

Councilor of Rio de Janeiro (1989–1991)

Bolsonaro as Rio de Janeiro city councilor in March 1990. In October of the same year, he was elected Federal Deputy for Rio.

Bolsonaro entered politics in 1988, getting elected as city councilor in Rio de Janeiro, representing the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). According to his biography written by his son Flávio, Bolsonaro "was a candidate for councilor because it happened to be the only option he had at the moment to avoid persecution by some superiors. His entry into politics happened by chance, for his desire was to continue in his military career".[35]

He spent only two years in the Municipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro. He was described as a quiet, discreet and conservative councilor, and showed little participation.[36] His term as councilor was used mainly to give visibility to military causes, such as retirement benefits for former officers.[35]

Federal Deputy for Rio de Janeiro (1991–2018)

In the 1990 elections, he was elected as a federal deputy for the Christian Democratic Party. Bolsonaro served seven consecutive terms, from 1991 to 2018. He has been affiliated with several other Brazilian political parties over the years. In 2014, he was the congressman who gained the most votes in Rio de Janeiro, with 465,000 votes.[37]

In his 27 years of service in the Brazilian National Congress, he put forward one constitutional amendment and at least 171 bills, passing two of them into law.[38] Bolsonaro, who claims to be persecuted by the left-wing parties, said most congressmen do not vote according to their agenda, but "by who the author of the bill is".[39]

In January 2018, Bolsonaro abandoned the Social Christian Party and switched to the Social Liberal Party (PSL).[40] Following Bolsonaro's arrival, the PSL adopted conservative and right-wing positions, and its social liberal group Livres announced their departure from the party.[41][42]

Presidential campaign (2018)

On 22 July 2018, Bolsonaro was officially nominated by the Social Liberal Party (PSL) as its presidential candidate for the 2018 election.[43] Bolsonaro was also endorsed by the Brazilian Labour Renewal Party. His coalition name was "Brazil above everything, God above everyone" (Brasil acima de tudo, Deus acima de todos).[44][45] Though contested by two lawsuits, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil deferred them and his candidacy was made official on 6 August.[46] Bolsonaro announced in August that Antônio Hamilton Mourão, a retired army general, would be his running mate for the upcoming election.[47]

Bolsonaro supporters in London, 7 October 2018

According to political pundits, early in the campaign, Bolsonaro moderated his tone, taking a less aggressive and confrontational style. Economically, he started to support the idea of less government intervention in the economy (in contrast to what he had stated in the past, when he defended developmentalists policies). On the other hand, he maintained his tough stance on crime and his defense of "traditional family values".[48] Bolsonaro also said he planned to cut taxes across the board, particularly on inheritances and businesses, in order to generate growth and tackle unemployment.[49] He also promised more austerity measures and cuts in government spending, but had difficulty naming the areas where he would make these cuts. He also mentioned he would work to diminish the size and bureaucracy of the federal government by enacting a wide variety of deregulation measures.[50] Bolsonaro's promises to restore security amid record high crime and to stamp out the country's rampant political corruption won him huge popular support.[51] In October, Bolsonaro announced he would name liberal economist Paulo Guedes to serve as his finance minister.[52]

On 9 August 2018, he attended the first presidential debate of the year, organized by the TV network Rede Bandeirantes.[53] A week later, there was another debate at RedeTV!.[54] On 28 August, he gave an interview to Jornal Nacional, Brazil's best rated prime time news program, at Rede Globo.[55]

Jair Bolsonaro was the first candidate for the presidency to raise over R$1 million in donations from the public during the 2018 campaign. In the first 59 days, he amassed an average of R$17,000 per day in donations.[56]

After the Workers' Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was arrested in April 2018, Bolsonaro became the front-runner, according to all major opinion polls, for that year's presidential election.[57][58] A Datafolha poll from September, for instance, showed Bolsonaro as the leading candidate in the first round with 28% of vote intentions; however, run-off scenarios showed Bolsonaro losing to opponents Geraldo Alckmin, Fernando Haddad and Ciro Gomes and tying with Marina Silva.[59] Another poll from Datafolha, conducted in the week leading up to election day, showed a considerable surge for Bolsonaro, who had 40% of vote intentions, or 36% when null or blank vote intentions were included. Fernando Haddad came in second with 25%, and Ciro Gomes in third with 15%.[60]

The first round of the election occurred on 7 October 2018. Bolsonaro finished in first place with 46% of the popular vote (or 49.2 million people). Since he failed to win overall 50% of valid votes needed to win outright, he faced the second most voted, Fernando Haddad from the Workers' Party, in a runoff held on 28 October 2018.[61]

Bolsonaro is known for his finger-gun gesture, which he used during the presidential campaign.

After the first round, when his victory looked certain, Bolsonaro gave a speech by videolink to thousands of supporters who gathered at Paulista Avenue, in São Paulo. In the speech, he threatened to arrest, purge or kill "reds" and "petralhas" (a derogatory term for Worker's Party's members), and promised that members of the social movements MST and MTST would be treated as "terrorists". He said: "This time, the clean-up will be even greater. This group ["reds"], if they want to stay, will have to abide by our laws ... These red outlaws will be banned from our homeland. Either they go overseas, or they go to jail ... Petralhada, you all go to the edge of the beach. It will be a cleaning never seen in the history of Brazil".[62][63] The "edge of the beach", it was later confirmed by a Bolsonaro aide, was a reference to a Navy base at Restinga da Marambaia, in Rio de Janeiro State, where dissidents of the Brazilian military dictatorship were tortured and killed by the regime.[64] The speech was widely condemned by rivals, journalists and politicians.[65][66][67][68]

Bolsonaro won the runoff election with 55.13% of the votes, and was elected the 38th president of Brazil.[69][70][71] He took office on 1 January 2019.[72]

During the campaign, academics repeatedly raised concerns on the consequences of Bolsonaro's rise for the Brazilian democracy. Writing for the news magazine Foreign Policy, Federico Finchelstein, a historian at the New School for Social Research who specializes in fascism, said: "Bolsonaro's vocabulary recalls the rhetoric behind Nazi policies of persecution and victimization. But does sounding like a Nazi make him a Nazi? Insomuch as he believes in holding elections, he is not there yet. However, things could change quickly if he gains power."[73] Jason Stanley, a Yale philosopher who has published widely on Nazism, argued in an interview that Bolsonaro "uses more tactics associated to fascism than [the] American president Donald Trump".[74] Harvard's Steven Levitsky stated that Bolsonaro "is clearly authoritarian", but not a fascist.[75] Similar concerns were raised by analysts in Portugal[76] and Brazil.[77] Others, such as Marxist historian Perry Anderson, dismissed the "fascist" and "populist" labels altogether.[78]

Another highly controversial aspect of the campaign was the alleged use of illegal digital communication strategies by some of Bolsonaro's most important financial supporters. According to an investigation by Folha de S.Paulo, one of Brazil's best selling newspapers, "Bolsonaro has been getting an illegal helping hand from a group of Brazilian entrepreneurs who are bankrolling a campaign to bombard WhatsApp users with fake news about [Fernando] Haddad."[79] The suspicions led to a formal investigation by electoral authorities and the Federal Police; Bolsonaro and allies denied any wrongdoing.[80] Another controversial point was that Taíse Feijó who is currently an adviser in Bolsonaro's government was among those paid to feed fake news to his supporters.[81]

Stabbing attack during campaign

The moment Bolsonaro was attacked at the Juiz de Fora rally

Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen on 6 September 2018 while campaigning and interacting with supporters in the city of Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais.[82] At first, his son Flávio Bolsonaro stated that his father's wounds were only superficial and he was recovering in the hospital,[83] but Flávio later stated that the wounds seemed worse than initially thought[84] and his father most likely would not be able to start campaigning personally before the end of the first round.[85] He tweeted about his father's condition, explaining that the perforation reached parts of the liver, lung, and intestine. He also stated that Bolsonaro had lost a large amount of blood, arriving at the hospital with severe hypotension (his blood pressure was 10/3, equivalent to 100/30 mmHg), but that he had since stabilized.[86][87][82] The attack was condemned by most of the other candidates in the presidential race, from both sides of the political spectrum, and by then current Brazilian president Michel Temer.[88] The day after the attack, Bolsonaro was transferred to the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in São Paulo, after a request from his family. According to the doctors, he was in an "extremely stable" condition.[89]

Police arrested and identified the attacker as Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, who, according to security agents, claimed he was on "a mission from God".[90] He had been a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party between 2007 and 2014. His social media posts included political criticisms against both Bolsonaro and Temer.[91] However, an initial investigation by the Federal Police concluded that Adélio had no help from political organizations and acted alone.[92] A medical report produced for a second investigation about the murder attempt concluded that Adélio is mentally disturbed, having a "permanent paranoid delusional disorder" which, according to the Brazilian law, prevents him from being considered legally liable for his actions.[93]

On 29 September, a month after the attack, Bolsonaro was released from the hospital and returned to his home in Rio de Janeiro. However, his condition prevented him from returning to the campaign trail for the remainder of the first round of the presidential election.[94]


Demonstration against Bolsonaro in Porto Alegre, part of the Ele Não movement

In the same weekend he left the hospital, thousands of people took the streets in dozens of cities in Brazil to protest against Bolsonaro and his political stances, chanting "Ele não" ("Not him").[95] There were also rallies in support of the candidate in sixteen states.[96]

Presidency (2019–present)

Michel Temer with Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle during the inauguration on 1 January 2019

Bolsonaro was sworn in as President of the Republic on 1 January 2019, succeeding Michel Temer.[97] Bolsonaro began his cabinet formation before winning the presidency, having chosen economist Paulo Guedes as his Economy minister and astronaut Marcos Pontes as his Science and Technology minister.[98] Bolsonaro initially said his cabinet would be composed of 15 members; this figure later rose to 22 when he announced his final minister, Ricardo Salles, in December. His predecessor, Michel Temer, had a cabinet of 29 members.[99]

Bolsonaro's cabinet is composed of 16 ministers, two cabinet-level positions, and four presidency secretaries including Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni.[99] Bolsonaro's ministries include Operation Car Wash judge Sérgio Moro as Justice minister and congresswoman Tereza Cristina as Agriculture minister.[100][101]

Bolsonaro has stripped the indigenous affairs agency FUNAI of the responsibility to identify and demarcate indigenous lands. He argued that those territories have very tiny isolated populations, who would be controlled by NPOs, and proposed to integrate them into the larger Brazilian society. Critics feared that such integration would lead the Brazilian natives to suffer cultural assimilation.[19] Argentine President Mauricio Macri was the first foreign leader to be received by Bolsonaro on a state visit to Brasília since he assumed the Brazilian presidency.[102]

Bolsonaro with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, June 2019

The second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela took place nine days after Bolsonaro's inauguration. The disputed results of the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election led to the Venezuelan presidential crisis, as the National Assembly rejected the results, considered Maduro an illegitimate ruler since his first term of office ended, and appointed Juan Guaidó as acting president. Bolsonaro did not attend Maduro's inauguration and recognized Guaidó as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela, alongside Mauricio Macri from Argentina and Donald Trump from the US, among others.[103] He said that "We will continue doing everything possible to re-establish order, democracy and freedom there".[104] After allegations of campaign-finance fraud, Bolsonaro fired Gustavo Bebianno, a top adviser and general secretary for the president. His party was accused of diverting public campaign funds to candidates who did not run for office.[105]

Since his election, his popularity is steadily declining. A Datafolha survey, published on 21 May 2019, showed that 34% of respondents described Bolsonaro's administration as "great or good"; 26% as "regular", 36% as "bad or awful", while 4% did not respond. This was the first time more Brazilians rejected the politics of Bolsonaro than affirmed it.[106]

On 7 July 2020, Bolsonaro revealed that he had tested positive for COVID-19.[107] Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, Bolsonaro and his administration have been accused of downplaying the crisis while the number of people infected by the virus in the country climbed exponentially by mid-2020.[108] The president claimed that the coronavirus is no more deadly than the "common flu" and that his priority is the economic recovery of the nation rather than the health crisis.[109] He has constantly accused political opponents and the press of exaggerating the threat of the virus.[110] On 25 July 2020, Bolsonaro announced that he had tested negative for COVID-19 in a fourth test since being diagnosed, although the following week he indicated that he had also started suffering from "mold in the lung".[111][112]

Political positions

Bolsonaro in 2010

Bolsonaro's political views have been described as nationalist and populist in nature, and he himself as an advocate of far-right policies.[113][114] His supporters, however, claim that his views are more aligned with traditional right-wing conservatism.[115] His electorate is mainly formed by adults above the age of 34, the working middle to upper class (mainly in the southeast region of the country), conservatives in general, college graduates, some centrists and the Christian right.[116] According to some polls, Bolsonaro's main support comes from the southeast, central-west and south regions of Brazil. His voters are usually male and white, with a noticeable gender gap, with Bolsonaro polling poorly among female voters (mustering only 18% support with this demographic).[95][117][118] Just before the 2018 election, however, it was reported that female support for him had risen to 27%.[119]

Bolsonaro is viewed as a pro-life,[120] anti-establishment and pro-gun politician, voicing opposition to most forms of gun control legislation, arguing that law-abiding citizens have the right to self-defense, especially those living in rural areas.[121] According to The Washington Post, "Homicides hit a record high of 63,880 last year [...] Bolsonaro's solution is zero tolerance. He has called for police to use more lethal force and wants to relax gun laws so that average citizens can defend themselves."[20] Bolsonaro often rejects accusations made against him of misogyny and homophobia, and says he is not "far-right", but simply right-wing.[122]

Bolsonaro was one of the key political figures in support of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the 2015–16 protests against corruption, galvanizing a lot of support for his cause among the populace.

Jair Bolsonaro is known for his strong opposition to left-wing policies. Most notably, he has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage,[3] environmental regulations,[123] abortion,[5] affirmative action (particularly racial quotas),[6] immigration[124] (particularly from Haiti, Africa and the Middle East, which he once called "the scum of humanity"),[114] drug liberalization,[7] land reforms,[125] and secularism at the federal level,[7] among other things.[126] He has also made statements in defense of the Brazilian military regime[127] (a dictatorship known for constant human rights violations).[128] He argues that torture is a "legitimate practice" and says that he would try to pass new legislation regarding the introduction of life imprisonment to the Brazilian penal code.[129] Bolsonaro supports the privatization of state-owned companies and advocates free market policies,[130] although critics have stated that his policy-making record does not in fact show him to be a supporter of economic liberalism.[131]

In a 2017 interview with journalist Claudio Dantas Sequeira from O Antagonista, Bolsonaro said that his views are directly aligned with the centrist to right-wing United States citizens' views on gun ownership, abortion, gender politics, and trade, despite the "left-leaning media frenzy" against him. He reiterated that he intends to reverse some disarmament laws, improve public security, and also improve trade ties with the United States, which he said were broken during Lula da Silva's and Dilma Rousseff's administrations.[132]

Bolsonaro supported the European Union–Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, which would form one of the world's largest free trade areas.

Bolsonaro has, during his long political career, expressed views regarded as being far-right.[133] He has made statements that some people considered insulting, homophobic,[134] violence-inciting,[135][136][137] misogynistic, sexist,[138][136][137] racist[139][136][137] or anti-refugee.[140] Other controversial political stances expressed by Bolsonaro have been the defense of the death penalty (which is currently banned under the Constitution of Brazil of 1988) and of radical interventionism in Brazil by the military, along with an imposition of a Brazilian military government.[7][141]

Journalist Glenn Greenwald called Bolsonaro "the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world".[142] wondered whether Bolsonaro was "the world's most repulsive politician".[139] British news magazine The Economist referred to him as a "radical", "religious nationalist", a "right-wing demagogue", and "apologist of dictators".[143] Federico Finchelstein, scholar on fascism and populism, has considered Bolsonaro, as he would link violence to austerity and neoliberal economic ideas, to be the most similar leader to Augusto Pinochet to come out from the young South American democracies.[144]

Bolsonaro is an open admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump. During Bolsonaro's campaign, some observers saw similarities between the Brazilian president-elect and the U.S. president's ideals, hardline attacks and a reputation for incendiary rhetoric, as well as social media presence. Because of this, Bolsonaro has been called the Brazilian equivalent of Trump or the "Trump of the Tropics".[145]

Views on the Brazilian military dictatorship

Bolsonaro and his son Eduardo hold up a Brazilian flag during a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 military coup d'état, 1 April 2014.

Throughout his political career, Bolsonaro has made several admiring comments about the U.S.–supported Brazilian military dictatorship which ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. He said in 1993, eight years after the return of democracy, that the military regime had "led to a more sustainable and prosperous Brazil".[11] Bolsonaro has publicly referred to the military dictatorship as a "glorious" period in Brazil's history,[146] and that under the military dictatorship, Brazil enjoyed "20 years of order and progress".[146] In December 2008, Bolsonaro said that "the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured, but did not kill".[147]

Bolsonaro has also repeatedly made admiring comments about a number of other Latin American dictatorships. He praised Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori as a role model for his use of military intervention via self-coup against the judiciary and legislature.[11] In a 1998 interview with Veja magazine, Bolsonaro praised the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, and said the Pinochet regime, which killed over 3,000 Chilean citizens, "should have killed more people".[148] In 1999, Bolsonaro said that Hugo Chávez represented "hope for Latin America", comments that became a matter of controversy during the 2018 campaign, when Bolsonaro presented himself as a harsh critic of Chavismo.[149] In 2019, already in power, Bolsonaro commended Paraguay autocrat Alfredo Stroessner as a "visionary" and "statesman", drawing immediate criticism, particularly due to multiple allegations of pedophilia against Stroessner.[150][151]

Speaking before his vote in favor of President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment amid the massive corruption scandal, Bolsonaro paid homage to Colonel Brilhante Ustra, an agent of Brazil's military dictatorship, and announced on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies that he was dedicating his pro-impeachment vote to Ustra's memory. Ustra had headed the DOI-CODI torture unit where Rousseff was allegedly tortured during the military dictatorship. Left-wing deputy Jean Wyllys spat at him after his statement during the same session. The congressman claimed to have suffered homophobic offenses from Jair Bolsonaro and his allies.[152][153]

In a TV interview with Câmera Aberta in the 1990s, Bolsonaro said that if he ever became President, he would use this as an opportunity to shut down the National Congress and instigate a military coup himself. As of 2018, he appeared to have changed his mind, and said that if someone becomes the head of the country, it would be through voting.[154]

In March 2019, Bolsonaro stated that the 1964 coup d'état that overthrew President João Goulart[155] was not a coup, and that March 31, the day the coup was installed, should be "properly commemorated".[156][157][158]

Foreign policy

Bolsonaro with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, Washington, D.C., 19 March 2019

During the 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro said he would make considerable changes to Brazil's foreign relations, saying that the "Itamaraty needs to be in service of the values that were always associated with the Brazilian people". He also said that the country should stop "praising dictators" and attacking democracies, such as the United States, Israel and Italy.[159] In early 2018, he affirmed that his "trip to the five democratic countries the United States, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan showed who we will be and we would like to join good people". Bolsonaro has shown distrust towards China throughout the presidential campaign claiming they "[want to] buy Brazil",[160][161] although Brazil recorded a US$20 billion trade surplus with China in 2018, and China is only the 13th largest source of foreign direct investment into Brazil.[162] Bolsonaro said he wishes to continue to have business with the Chinese but he also said that Brazil should "make better [economic] deals" with other countries, with no "ideological agenda" behind it.[122] His stance towards China has also been interpreted by some as an attempt to curry favor from the Trump administration to garner concessions from the US.[163] However, Bolsonaro has mostly changed his position on China after he took office, saying that the two countries were “born to walk together” during his visit to Beijing in October 2019.[164][165] He has also said that Brazil will stay out of the ongoing China-U.S. trade war.[164]

Bolsonaro said that his first international trip as president will be to Israel.[166] Bolsonaro also said that the State of Palestine "is not a country, so there should be no embassy here", adding that "you don't negotiate with terrorists."[166] The announcement was warmly received by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed Bolsonaro to Israel in March 2019 during the final weeks of a re-election campaign,[167] but was met with condemnation from the Arab League, which warned Bolsonaro it could damage diplomatic ties.[168] "I love Israel," Bolsonaro said in Hebrew at a welcoming ceremony, with Netanyahu at his side, at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport.[169]

Bolsonaro with Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2019

Bolsonaro has also praised U.S. President Donald Trump and his foreign policy.,[159] with Bolsonaro being named ‘the tropical Trump’.[170] Bolsonaro's son Eduardo has indicated that Brazil should distance itself from Iran, sever ties with Nicolás Maduro's government in Venezuela and relocate Brazil's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.[171] Bolsonaro is widely considered to be the most pro-American candidate in Brazil since the 1980s. PSL members have said that if elected, he will dramatically improve relations between the United States and Brazil.[8] During an October 2017 campaign rally in Miami, he saluted the American flag and led chants of "USA! USA!" to a large crowd.[172] U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton praised Bolsonaro as a 'like-minded' partner and said his victory was a "positive sign" for Latin America.[173]

At the regional level, he praised the Argentine President Mauricio Macri for ending the 12-years rule of Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, which he saw as similar to Lula and Rousseff. Although he does not have plans of leaving the Mercosur, he criticized that it gave priority to ideological issues instead of economic ones.[174] A staunch anti-communist, Bolsonaro has condemned Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro and the current regime in that island.[175][176]

Bolsonaro praised British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, saying that he had learned from Churchill: "Patriotism, love for your fatherland, respect for your flag – something that has been lost over the last few years here in Brazil ... and governing through example, especially at that difficult moment of the Second World War."[175] Bolsonaro said he's open to the possibility of hosting a U.S. military base in Brazil to counter Russian influence in the region.[177] With the intention of the U.S. President Donald Trump to make Brazil a NATO member in March 2019, Bolsonaro said: "the discussions with the United States will begin in the coming months".[178][179][180][181]

Bolsonaro with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Brasília, November 2019

With formal support from the United States for Brazil's entry on OECD in May 2019, Bolsonaro said that "currently, all 36 members of the organization support the entry of the country, fruit of confidence in the new Brazil being built, more free, open and fair".[182][183][184] In October 2019, on a state visit to China, Bolsonaro announced the end of the need for visas for Chinese and Indian entry into Brazil. The Brazilian government had already removed the need for visas for people from the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia.[185]

On 25 January 2020, on his first state visit to India, Bolsonaro said that Brazil will continue to demand a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and that will remain a priority on his government. Together with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said that "Brazil and India are two great countries, among the ten largest economies in the world, that together have 1.5 billion inhabitants, are democratic countries. We believe that it will be good for the world if Brazil and India join this group".[186] As the head of the state, he became the chief guest at the Delhi Republic Day parade on 26 January 2020.[187]

On 7 March 2020, Bolsonaro was hosted by the U.S. President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago for a working dinner, where the two leaders discussed the U.S.-led effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a future trade deal and peace for the Middle East, also Trump reaffirmed his interest in upgrading the American military alliance with Brazil, suggesting give to the country a full NATO membership, as part of an effort to fortify the Western Hemisphere against Russian and Chinese influence.[188][189]


Brazil has the world's largest tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin. According to The Washington Post, "Bolsonaro is a powerful supporter of agribusiness [...] and is likely to favor profits over preservation. [...] Bolsonaro has chafed at foreign pressure to safeguard the Amazon rainforest, and he served notice to international nonprofit groups such as the World Wildlife Fund that he will not tolerate their agendas in Brazil. He has also come out strongly against lands reserved for indigenous tribes. Bolsonaro advisers additionally say that he plans to expand nuclear and hydroelectric power into the Amazon."[20]

Bolsonaro with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall

Bolsonaro rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement during his campaign.[190][191] Even before taking office, he backed out of Brazil's offer to host the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference.[192] Ernesto Araújo, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed by Bolsonaro, has called global warming a plot by "cultural Marxists"[193] and has eliminated the Climate Change Division of the ministry.[191] Two departments of the Ministry of the Environment dealing with climate change and mitigation and one dealing with deforestation have also been eliminated.[191]

In April 2019, the American Museum of Natural History canceled an event honoring Bolsonaro after facing heavy public criticism, including from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The museum's directorate justified its decision in a statement, "With mutual respect for the work and goals of our organizations, we jointly agreed that the Museum is not the optimal location for the Brazilian-Am. Chamber of Commerce gala dinner. This traditional event will go forward at another location on the original date and time."[194] Bolsonaro has supported plans to open the Reserva Nacional do Cobre e Associados (Renca) Amazonian reserve in Brazil's northern states of Pará and Amapá to commercial mining.[195]

Bolsonaro, French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the 2019 G20 Osaka summit

Destruction of the Amazon rainforest increased by 88% for the month of June 2019, during Bolsonaro's first year as president, as compared with the previous year, according to National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Bolsonaro has rejected the agency's data as false. The IPSE director was fired after he rebutted Bolsonaro's criticism of IPSE.[196][197][198][199] The Bolsonaro administration has decreased government efforts which combat illegal logging, ranching and mining in the Amazon. Government enforcement actions such as fines, warnings and the confiscation or destruction of illegal equipment in protected areas have decreased by 20% in the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017.[200]

In June 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was concerned about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and would seek "straight talk with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka". She also said that the situation "does not affect the imminent free trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU".[201][202][203] After French President Emmanuel Macron conditioned France's support for a trade accord between the European Union and Mercosul to Brazil remaining in the Paris Agreement, Bolsonaro said that Brazil "will not leave the Paris Agreement" in their meeting at the G20 Osaka, also inviting Macron to visit Brazil's Amazon region.[204][205]

Bolsonaro with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019

During a conversation with journalists in July 2019, Bolsonaro lashed out at European leaders, saying that the Amazon belongs to Brazil and European countries can mind their own business because they have already "destroyed their environment". He also said: "We preserve more [rainforest] than anyone. No country in the world has the moral right to talk about Amazon."[206]

During the 2019 Brazil wildfires, Bolsonaro in August 2019 accused (without providing any evidence) that non-governmental organizations had started the forest fires, due to a reduction of government funding to the NGOs. Environmental and climate experts described Bolsonaro's accusation as a "smokescreen" to hide his own government's rolling back of protections for the Amazon. They instead attributed the fires to farmers clearing land.[207]

On 22 August 2019, Bolsonaro accused Macron of having "a misplaced colonialist mentality in the 21st century" in reference to criticism by the French president, where he called on G7 leaders to discuss the Amazon crisis. He later tweeted "I regret that the President Macron seeks to exploit an internal issue in Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gains."[208][209] He added that "the Brazilian government remains open to dialogue, based on objective data and mutual respect."[210][211] Macron stated he will refuse to ratify the European Union–Mercosur Free Trade Agreement unless Brazil commits to protecting the environment.[212] Bolsonaro's Facebook comments mocking Brigitte Macron's looks escalated the diplomatic clash, which was dubbed "the worst diplomatic crisis between France and Brazil in 40 years". Macron pointed out that the French overseas territory of French Guiana on the northern coast of South America is France's biggest land border.[213]

Christianity and secularism

Bolsonaro speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019

Bolsonaro is a member of the Catholic Church (while his wife and one of his sons are Evangelical Christians).[214] However, according to The New Yorker reporter Jon Lee Anderson "he had himself baptized as an evangelical [Protestant] early in his campaign, by being ceremonially dunked in the Jordan River."[215] He is reported to have attended a Baptist church for 10 years.[216] In a 2017 speech, Bolsonaro stated, "God above everything. There is no such thing as a secular state. The state is Christian, and any minority that is against this has to change, if they can."[217] He later evolved his position to maintaining the country a secular state during the first round of the Brazilian presidential elections: "We are going to make a government for everyone, regardless of religion. Even for atheists. We have almost 5% of atheists in Brazil, and they have the same needs that others have."[218]

Views on women

In an interview with Zero Hora in 2015, Bolsonaro argued that men and women should not receive the same salaries, because women get pregnant, adding that he believes federal law mandating paid maternity leave harms work productivity.[219] Bolsonaro has denied saying that women should receive less than men; he claims it was statistical data by IBGE.[220]

In a public speech in April 2017, Bolsonaro said he had five children, that the first four were male and that for the fifth he produced a daughter out of "a moment of weakness".[221]

Bolsonaro arguing with Federal Deputy Maria do Rosário in the Chamber of Deputies, 14 September 2016

Bolsonaro provoked controversy for a series of remarks made to and about Federal Deputy and former Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosário. During a Congressional debate, Bolsonaro said that minors should be treated as adults if they commit heinous crimes such as murder or rape, to which Maria do Rosário responded by calling him a "rapist".[222][223][224] Bolsonaro then stated that Congresswoman Rosário was "not worth raping; she is very ugly".[225] The remarks drew considerable condemnation throughout Brazil. In the aftermath of these remarks, Bolsonaro was tried and convicted in a Federal court in September 2015 on counts of hedonic damages against Rosário.[226] In June 2016, the Federal Supreme Court responded to a complaint filed by the Attorney General and decided to open two criminal actions against Bolsonaro. The Supreme Court ruled that he had potentially incited rape and defamed the honor of his fellow Deputy. He faced a penalty of up to six months of jail and a fine.[227] Ultimately in August 2017, an appellate court upheld a lower court's verdict which found Bolsonaro guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine to Rosário of R$10,000 (roughly equivalent to US$2,500).[228] This lawsuit was dismissed by the Supreme Federal Court as Bolsonaro was inaugurated as president in 2019 and acquired immunity from prosecution.[229]

Views on homosexuality

Gay Pride parade in São Paulo, June 2011

In a June 2011 interview with Playboy, Bolsonaro said that "I would be incapable of loving a gay son", and added that he would prefer any gay son of his "to die in an accident".[230] In the same interview, Bolsonaro said that if a gay couple moved in next door to him, it would lower the market value of his house. In a July 2011 interview with the magazine Época, Bolsonaro said that he would "fight to prevent the distribution of the 'gay kit'" [a set of guidelines proposed by UNESCO to promote the rights of the LGBT community in primary schools] because "their intention is to promote homosexuality, which is an affront to the family structure, and if that makes me prejudiced, then I'm prejudiced and very proud of it".[7] In the 2013 BBC documentary Out There, by British actor Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro said that "no father is ever proud of having a gay son," and that "we Brazilians do not like homosexuals."[231]

In a 2011 interview with Jornal de Notícias, Bolsonaro linked homosexuality to pedophilia, claiming that "many of the children who are adopted by gay couples will be abused by these couples". He further argued that Brazil does not need legislation specifically targeting homophobia, because "most homosexuals are murdered by their respective pimps at hours when good citizens are already asleep".[232] In a May 2002 interview with the Folha de S.Paulo, Bolsonaro told the newspaper, "If I see two men kissing in the street, I will beat them." He then publicly defended beating gay children by saying: "If your child starts to become like that, a little gay, you take a whip and you change their behavior."[233]

Bolsonaro and his son, Eduardo, together with fellow congressman Marco Feliciano, watching as a couple of protesters for LGBT rights kiss on the floor of the Committee on Culture of the Chamber of Deputies, May 2016

In a video interview for Vice with openly lesbian actress Ellen Page, Page asked Bolsonaro if he thinks she should have been beaten as a child, in response to his public statements that gay children should be beaten. In response, Bolsonaro said to Page, "You are very nice. If I were a cadet in the military academy and saw you on the street, I would whistle at you. All right? You are very pretty."[234] Bolsonaro added, "Over time, due to liberal habits, drugs, with women also working, the number of homosexuals has really increased."[234]

On 9 November 2017, the Court of Justice for the State of Rio de Janeiro sentenced Bolsonaro to pay a fine of R$150,000 for hate speech because of televised comments he made in 2011 to the CQC TV program, when Bolsonaro stated that "there is no risk" of his family producing a homosexual child because his children had a "good education". Judge Luciana Teixeira said that the deputy had abused his right of free expression to commit a wrongful act. "You cannot deliberately attack and humiliate, ignoring the principles of equality, just because you invoke freedom of expression," said the judge.[235]

However, on 11 January 2016, when he began to present himself as a pre-candidate to the Presidency of Brazil, Bolsonaro began to moderate his discourse on gay people by publishing a video on his official YouTube channel:

I have nothing to do with anyone's behavior. If the man and the woman later decide to live with their partner, to form a couple, to live with a same-sex person, go and be happy. But we cannot admit that, by our omission in the Parliament, children become homosexuals in the future, or have such homosexual behavior in the future, by the influence of school. That is inadmissible.[236]

Since then, Bolsonaro claims he has nothing against gays and that he fights only the "gay kit" in schools.[237] On 4 October 2018, for example, Bolsonaro said:

Each person, after a certain age, owner of their acts, will take care of their life. For six-year-old children, it cannot be. A father does not want to come home and see his son playing with a doll by the influence of school. Homosexuals will be happy if I become president.[238]

That same month, shortly before the first round of the Brazilian presidential elections, he said: "We are going to make a government for everybody. For gays, and some gays are fathers, who are mothers. It is a work for everyone".[218] After being elected president, when asked by William Bonner in the Jornal Nacional about what he would say to those who are more prejudiced and aggressive against gays, Bolsonaro replied: "The aggression against a fellow man has to be punished in the way of law. And if [such aggression is committed] for a reason like this, you have to have your sentence increased."[239]

Views on political violence

Bolsonaro visits the Federal Senate, March 2016.

On multiple occasions, Bolsonaro has publicly endorsed physical violence as a legitimate and necessary form of political action. In 1999, when he was 44 years old and a representative in the Brazilian Congress, Bolsonaro said during a TV interview that the only way of "changing" Brazil was by "killing thirty thousand people, beginning with Fernando Henrique Cardoso" (then President of Brazil).[240] During the 2018 campaign, he stated during a rally in Acre that the local "petralhas" (a derogatory term for members of the Workers' Party) would be "shot"; according to his aides, the statement was a "joke".[241] One week before the second round, Bolsonaro said during a speech that in his administration "petralhas" and "reds" (i.e. leftists) would be arrested, purged or taken to the "corner of the beach", a term that was later revealed to mean a Navy base where dissidents of the Brazilian military dictatorship were murdered.[64]

In 1999, talking about Chico Lopes, a former president of the Brazilian Central Bank who invoked his right to remain silent during a Congress hearing, Bolsonaro declared himself in favour of torture in this sort of situation.[242] Asked about this phrase years later, Bolsonaro said: "Ask the father of a kidnapped child what he would like him to do to discover [where the kid is]. You have to take brutal measures, which some consider torture".[243]

Birth control for the poor

Bolsonaro provoked considerable controversy for public remarks made in July 2008, where he proposed to provide poor people with birth control methods, who he suggested might be too uneducated to understand family planning education. Bolsonaro said:

I wish Brazil had a family planning program. It's not even worthy to talk about education when most of these [poor] people are not prepared to receive education, therefore they won't educate themselves. Only rigid birth control can save us from chaos. An educated man and woman will hardly desire an extra child with the sole purpose of engaging in a social welfare assistance program [as it is nowadays]. We need to adopt a rigid birth control policy. We can't make demagogic speeches any longer, proposing bills and means of government to support these poor people [who] are increasingly proliferating throughout the country. [...] People who aren't prepared to have children, shouldn't have them. This is what I stand for and I'm not worried about getting votes in the future. It's past time to discuss a policy to contain this demographic explosion, otherwise, we'll keep voting in this Chamber only matters such as Bolsa Família, loans for the poor, gas vouchers, etc. Methods [of birth control] have to be provided for those who, unfortunately, are ignorant and have no means to control their offspring. Because we [as upper-middle class] can control ours. Poor people don't control [theirs].[244][245][246][247]

As a Congressman, Bolsonaro put forward three bills trying to remove "virtually all" legal restrictions to surgical sterilisation via the public health system, including the reduction of "the minimum age of sterilization to 21 years".[248] None of the bills were voted.

Personal life

Bolsonaro and two of his sons, Eduardo and Flávio, in the late 1980s

Bolsonaro has been married three times and has five children. His first wife was Rogéria Nantes Braga (with whom he has three sons: Flávio, Carlos and Eduardo). His second marriage was with Ana Cristina Valle (with whom he has a son, Renan). In 2007, he married his third and current wife Michelle de Paula Firmo Reinaldo (with whom he has a daughter, Laura).[249][250] While working in Congress, Bolsonaro hired Michelle as a secretary and over the next two years she received unusual promotions and her salary more than tripled. He was forced to fire her after the Supreme Federal Court ruled that nepotism is illegal in the public administration.[251][252] As of 2018, Bolsonaro and his wife lived in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro.[253]

Honours and awards

National honours


  • One of the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine (17 April 2019)[261][262]
  • Person of the Year of Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce (14 May 2019)[263]

Electoral history


Election First round Second round
Votes % Position Result Votes % Position Result
2018 49,276,990 46.0 #1 Run-off 57,797,847 55.1 #1 Elected

Chamber of Deputies

Party Votes % Position in Rio de Janeiro State Result
1990 PDC Elected[264]
1994 PPR 111,927 2.5 #3 Elected[265]
1998 PPB 102,893 1.4 #10 Elected[266]
2002 PPB 88,945 1.1 #21 [267] Elected[268]
2006 PP 99,700 1.2 #14 [269] Elected[270]
2010 PP 120,646 1.5 #11 [271] Elected[272]
2014 PP 464,572 6.1 #1 [271] Elected[273]


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PSL nominee for President of Brazil
Most recent
New political party National President of Alliance for Brazil
21 November 2019 – present