By Alex Hochuli
The election of neo-fascist presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro is raising fears that Brazil could be the latest country hit by a wave of far-right authoritarians. Bolsonaro, though, represents something scarier than Donald Trump, the politician he is most often compared to. And thus as Brazilians head to the polls on Oct. 28, the world’s fourth-largest democracy is in danger.
Bolsonaro is a seven-term congressman who surged into the popular consciousness as a hardline law-and-order figure with outsider credibility because of the swirling crises that have engulfed Brazil over the past five years. His racist, misogynist, homophobic outrages are numerous and well-known. Horrifying as these are, merely repeating them does not tell us everything about why Bolsonaro is such an unsuitable candidate.
Bolsonaro’s eulogies to the military dictatorship and its torturers tell us a bit more. Brazil’s “day that lasted 21 years” did not go far enough, in his mind: The dictatorship “should have killed 30,000 more,” he said in 1999, while serving his third term as a congressman. Within the military establishment, Bolsonaro represents an extremist tendency; former military-dictator Ernesto Geisel labeled him“completely beyond the pale” and a “military evil.”