Bolsonaro Takes Brazil

martes, 6 de noviembre de 2018


By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Sunday’s runoff presidential election in Brazil pitted Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who has spent 27 years in Brazil’s Congress, against Fernando Haddad, a former one-term mayor of the city of São Paulo. On Sunday evening with 97% of the vote in, Mr. Bolsonaro was handily beating Mr. Haddad, 55.4% to 44.6%.

Much was made during the campaign of Mr. Bolsonaro’s history of rude comments about women and minorities and about his pledge to use an iron fist to fight crime in poor neighborhoods.

He was labeled a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, a fascist, an advocate of torture and an aspiring dictator. His opponents gathered in the streets to denounce him and wrote withering diatribes against him in the press. The proudly “progressive” international media joined the fray, declaring him a threat to the environment and democracy.

It ought to have been enough to sink the Bolsonaro candidacy. Yet he prevailed, and it isn’t hard to see why: Brazilians are in the midst of a national awakening in which socialism-the alternative to a Bolsonaro presidency-has been put on trial. The resounding victory of Novo Party’s classical-liberal gubernatorial candidate Romeu Zema in the large state of Minas Gerais confirms that theory.

Mr. Haddad was the candidate of Brazil’s gigantic left-wing populist Workers’ Party, known as PT. He was also the handpicked successor to former two-term President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is in jail on a bribery conviction but remains popular with his supporters. Against Mr. Bolsonaro’s small Social Liberal Party, Mr. Haddad should have won walking away.

How Mr. Bolsonaro triumphed is worth examining because it suggests that something changed in this election. It can always change back, and it probably will. But for now the momentum is on the side of reform, and policy makers have a unique opportunity to advance liberty and prosperity in South America’s largest economy.

Mr. Bolsonaro is a social conservative, yet the “traditional values” vote alone couldn’t have propelled his candidacy. It took PT greed and hubris and the palpable failure of its left-wing ideology to send the electorate more broadly into the arms of Mr. Haddad’s rival.

In 2002, when it looked as if Lula, a bosom buddy of Fidel Castro, would win the election, markets were spooked because of his socialist values. But he tread gently during his early years in office and conned the world into thinking he had invented a new kind of big government while he and his party abused their power. In August 2016, his chief of staff and successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached 20 months into her second presidential term. By that time the economy was trashed, the fiscal accounts were in disarray, and the central bank was printing money.

Ms. Rousseff’s vice president, Michel Temer of the Democratic Movement party, is now finishing her term. Inflation has come down and a nearly three-year recession is over. But the deep economic wounds haven’t healed. The recovery has been anemic.

PT corruption enraged the electorate. The federal investigation dubbed Operation Car Wash revealed a callous political and business elite that teamed up to enrich themselves and the party and passed the bill to the public. PT scoundrels also used the national development bank and the state-owned oil giant, Petrobras , to subsidize the military dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela.

Lula is, after all, a founding member of Foro de São Paulo, where Latin American socialists first gathered in 1990 to mourn the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The PT hasn’t taken responsibility for the economic crackup or apologized for the graft. Lula has shown no remorse, which adds insult to economic misery. There was a feeling that if the PT returned to power, it would pick up where it left off.

This goes a long way in explaining the Bolsonaro phenomenon. He isn’t PT and hasn’t been tarnished by Operation Car Wash. Brazilians find him refreshing, warts and all.

They will need to keep their optimism in check. His “tough on crime” agenda sounds good. But he will be fighting wealthy transnational syndicates that make big money off the cocaine trade. It could get nasty; results won’t come easy. Institutions will be tested.

In Congress he voted against privatization and pension reform, and some of his critics on the right worry that he still clings to the economic nationalism prevalent among Latin American militaries. His chief economic adviser is a University of Chicago-trained economist, but the candidate said that “strategic” parts of state-owned companies like Petrobras ought not be sold.

Still, Mr. Bolsonaro offers much of what those who want to modernize Brazil could only dream of during the PT reign. He backs an independent central bank, some privatization and deregulation, a reconciliation of fiscal accounts, property rights, opening the economy, and a move away from industrial policy. If he gets even half that done, Brazilians will be winners.

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