But Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, is receiving much the same treatment from the mainstream media as President Trump.
Bolsonaro is erudite, good on TV and married to a beautiful woman. He aims to reform his country by challenging its entrenched democracy in ways not done in decades. He promises a new take on the issues of the day – one based on family and pride and a war on political correctness. He is almost always referred to as “extreme” or “populist.”
“Brazil’s new far-right president had an alarming first week,” read the headline on Vox. “He issued decrees that undermine indigenous rights and could threaten the environment, with more to come,” read the subhead on the story by Jen Kirby.
Bolsonaro was a “fringe lawmaker” before his “far-right campaign carried him to victory,” Kirby wrote. Now, “he has embraced incendiary rhetoric against indigenous, LGBTQ and other minority populations and expressed nostalgia for the country’s decades under military rule,” and thus his campaign “garnered more than a few comparisons to that of another politician: US President Donald Trump.”
Now, like Trump, he has started to turn “some of this rhetoric into policy.” Among his first moves was to move control of certifying indigenous territories as protected lands from the National Indian Foundation, a government agency akin to our Bureau of Indian Affairs, to the Agriculture Ministry– “a move that’s widely seen as undermining indigenous rights and environmental protections.”
Instead of what amounts to reservations, where the new president says indigenous people are “exploited and manipulated by nongovernmental organizations,” he wants to “integrate those citizens and take care of all Brazilians.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, Vox reports, is “closely tied to the farm industry and logging and mining interests.” And the rest of the National Indian Foundation portfolio will be folded into a new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, which “will lessen its ability to enforce protections for indigenous peoples,” Kirby reported.
This potentially sets up conflicts between landowners and indigenous people who claim rights to the landowners’ property, Kirby wrote.
Bolsonaro also has threatened the environment by vowing to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, as the U.S. has, and by removing Brazil from a list of possible hosts for this year’s United Nations climate conference.
Bolsonaro “has reshuffled his cabinet and filled the ministries with like-minded allies, many of whom have shown they’re prepared to carry out his agenda.” He has reduced the number of ministers from 29 to 22 by combining some agencies and eliminating others, such as the Ministry of Labor.
His new minister of the new Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights is an evangelical minister “who is against what she calls ‘gender ideology’” and said last week “a new era had begun where ‘boys wear blue and girls wear pink,’ a distillation of Bolsonaro’s anti-LGBTQ stance.
His education minister eliminated a department in the Ministry of Education “intended to promote diversity in schools, a move the president praised as preparing people for jobs rather than the domination of ‘socialist ideas.”
He also, similar to Trump, likes generals. Seven of those 22 ministers are former military officials, which is doubly troubling because Bolsonaro has “lauded the [military] dictatorship” that ruled Brazil in the past.
And Vox is not comfortable with Bolsonaro’s new friend north of the border. The kinship with Trump is “delivering a jolt to the US-Brazil relationship and Latin American politics more broadly,” Kirby wrote.
Out has gone the “South-South” policy of leftist predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who aligned the country with Venezuela, Cuba and other leftist governments. In has come an offer to the US to build a military base in Brazil.
He’s a man of action, seeks prosperity for his people and doesn’t tolerate political correctness. He must be a … threat to individual safety.
“It’s one thing to wrap up FUNAI (the indigenous agency) on the Ministry of Agriculture,” Kirby quotes an American academic as saying. “It’s another thing when he starts eroding the constitutional rights of individuals, and that’s where I do think he’ll have a lot less leeway than he hopes.”