In the wake of the most severe recession in Brazilian history and a corruption scandal, Brazilians will vote for their new president on October 7. Thus far, the election has been unlike any other, with one pro-capitalist candidate as the frontrunner who has been deemed the “Trump of Brazil,” running against several socialists.
To make matters worse, the “Trump of Brazil,” Jair Bolsonaro, was stabbed in the street at an event a couple of weeks ago. He is recovering in the hospital and continuing his campaigning through surrogates and social media. Despite this, thousands continue to amass in the street to support him at a time when the future of Brazil hangs on the election.
Here are six things you need to know about Jair Bolsonaro:
1. He Calls Himself A Conservative
Bolsonaro is a 63-year-old congressman and retired Captain in the Brazilian Army. He is also a Catholic and is married to an Evangelical Christian. He calls himself a conservative and opposes abortion and affirmative action, wants stricter immigration laws, hopes to make firearms more accessible to curtail crime, is a vocal supporter of Israel, and is a strong capitalist.
Bolsonaro brands himself as an honest man surrounded by corrupt politicians. At a time when 95% of Brazilians say corrupt political leaders are a problem, he also promises to crack down on both corruption and crime.
Despite serving as a congressman for 28 years, Bolsonaro still believes he is a political outsider fighting against the establishment and the socialist parties in power, and he also claims to vote with his principles instead of on party lines.
2. His Supporters Are Enthusiastic
Bolsonaro is called “the legend” by supporters; he seems to draw a crowd wherever he goes. An article in The Guardian describes the enthusiasm from a crowd which was greeting him at an airport: “When flight 2020 delivered the presidential hopeful to his sun-scorched destination in the northern state of Roraima, pandemonium broke out. 'Legend! Legend! Legend! Legend!' the crowd chanted, hoisting their idol into the air and outside through a crush of police officers and partisans.”
He has 6.3 million followers on Facebook and 1.45 million on Twitter. A new poll released by BTG Pactual shows Bolsonaro leading the field with 33% of the vote. According to Bloomberg, Bolsonaro is leading with 26% in one poll and 20% in another. Many predict that the election will go for a runoff vote due to no single candidate getting above the 50% threshold. Bolsonaro’s rejection rate, according to Bloomberg, is the highest among all the candidates at 44%.
His support primarily consists of the wealthiest and best-educated Brazilians as well as young people from 18-25 hoping that he can combat the crime corruption in the country.
3. He Was Stabbed While Campaigning
Bolsonaro was stabbed in Juiz de Fora at a campaign rally by a 40-year-old named Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, who has since confessed. According to Bolsnaro’s son, Flavio, the knife pierced his liver, a lung, and his intestinal tract. He reportedly lost 40% of his blood. This has caused Bolsonaro to campaign from his bed through Facebook with posts and live streams. He also missed a presidential debate due to being hospitalized, but prior to being hospitalized, he hinted at skipping some debates and instead focusing on campaign events.
4. He Has A Controversial Past
Bolsonaro is considered unfiltered and has a long list of controversial comments. Bolsonaro served as a military officer during Brazil’s authoritarian military dictatorship lasting from 1964 to 1985 and praises the dictatorship claiming: “There was decency and respect for the family. Things today are disgraceful,” according to The New York Times. Despite this, Bolsonaro says he is “totally committed” to democracy.
Bolsonaro has also made several remarks on his view of the LGBT community and women. In 2011, he told Playboy he would be “incapable of loving a gay son.” In 2014, Bolsonaro stated, “I wouldn’t rape you. You’re not worth it,” when addressing a congresswoman after she called him a rapist many years before.
Bolsonaro and his family believe that many of the comments that are attributed to him are taken out of context or were never said in the first place.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a “Women Against Bolsonaro” Facebook page was created two weeks ago and has 2.2 million members who plan to protest in the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
5. He Supports President Trump
Bolsonaro who has also been given the nickname “Trump of the Tropics” says he welcomes being compared to President Trump. “I’m not richer than him,” he told TIME, “That’s all I do not admire.”
Both men have several similarities, including their disdain for political correctness and lack of a filter. Bolsonaro also hopes to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, says he will close the Palestinian embassy in Brazil and move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and bases much of his campaign on strengthening immigration laws and fighting crime.
In an interview with The Daily Wire, his son, Eduardo, said his father is similar to Trump because “he doesn’t receive money from anyone” and because of “how [the media] handles us, how they work with us, they call us racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. All of these attacks are the same kind of attacks that Trump received.”
6. He Fears Election Fraud In The Upcoming Election
In 2015, a law that would require 5% of the ballots to be paper ballots was passed, but this summer, the Supreme Court in an 8-2 decision, suspended the requirement.
Bolsonaro believes the best way to prevent election fraud is to have a printout of each electronic vote. “The possibility of a fraud is concrete,” Bolsonaro said, according to Bloomberg. The voting system in Brazil is electronic, and Bolsonaro believes “The Workers’ Party found a way to the power— the electronic vote.”
Bolsonaro also believes his main competition, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party, will pardon disgraced former President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, who is serving a 12-year jail term for corruption, and make him chief of staff, according to Bloomberg. Lula de Silva was originally running in the race, but recently was reportedly forced to pull out of the race because of his conviction.
7. He Is One Of Brazil’s Last Hopes Against Socialism
In the upcoming election, Bolsonaro will face candidates from several left-wing and socialist parties: Workers’ Party, Democratic Labor Party, and Sustainability Network and one somewhat moderate party: the Social Democracy Party.
At a time when Brazil’s socialist neighbor, Venezuela, is plagued with poverty and hunger, many in Brazil fear the same fate if a socialist party wins the presidential election. According to Pew Research, 14 million Brazilians are out of work, and 82% of Brazilians believe their economy is bad.
Bolsonaro plans to reduce taxes and reduce the deficit, but admits that he doesn't understand much about economics and relies heavily on his pro-market advisor, Paulo Guedes, who studied at the University of Chicago.
Though Bolsonaro’s controversial past is well-known, many voters simply do not care. Renata Santana, a 44-year-old psychologist told the Guardian: “I won’t say he is perfect, but he is most aligned with family values.”
“There are no jobs, and this is because of socialist policies that stopped business people taking projects forward,” another woman named Rose Limeira said. “People can’t afford to employ anyone because they pay so much to the government.”