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Datum objave: 01.01.2019

Inauguration Ceremony as Jair Bolsonaro takes oath as new Brazilian president

The conservative leader Jair Bolsonaro is sworn in as President of Brazil at his inauguration ceremony in Brasilia on Tuesday, January 1.

LIVE: Inauguration Ceremony as Jair Bolsonaro takes oath as new Brazilian president

The conservative leader Jair Bolsonaro is sworn in as President of Brazil at his inauguration ceremony in Brasilia on Tuesday, January 1.

Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration: the day progressive Brazil has dreaded

Brazil’s new president will feel emboldened to roll back rainforest protections and legitimise police’s use of deadly force

It was a softball question at a campaign trail press conference: what would Jair Bolsonaro do on his first day as president?

Brazil’s preeminent provocateur wrestled it straight into a Trumpian whirlpool of bluster and barminess.

First, Bolsonaro – then still an outsider in the race for power – savaged Beijing. “Open your eyes, because the Chinese are buying Brazil!” he warned the Guardian after the question during a trip to the Amazon last spring.

Then, he pondered his own nation, declaring: “[Brazil is like] a patient whose … whole body needs amputating.”

Finally, the far-right firebrand embarked on a jumbled three-minute rollick through issues including Brazilian politics (“an embarrassment!”), the country itself (“a load of rubbish!”), English NGOs (“a joke”), Donald Trump (“I’m an admirer”) and Israel (“I’ve been there … they raise fish in the desert!”) before concluding his harangue with the six-word pledge that would define his insurgent campaign: “We are going to change Brazil!”

It was vintage Bolsonaro: pugnacious, largely nonsensical and yet strangely engrossing – and perhaps a good guide to how the most unlikely president in Brazilian history will govern for the next four years.

Few doubt the far-right populist – who took power on Tuesday – is serious about transforming the world’s fourth largest democracy or that his presidency will be an unpredictable and ill-tempered affair.

Perhaps no area faces a greater shake-up than the environment. To the horror of the environmentalists he so loathes, Bolsonaro has repeatedly signalled a desire to roll back environmental protections and make it easier to destroy the world’s biggest rainforest. Deeds have accompanied those words.

Since his stunning election, Bolsonaro has ditched plans to host key UN climate talks next year and appointed a foreign minister who believes climate change is a Marxist plot. As president, he looks set to take a sledgehammer to Brazil’s hard-earned reputation as a global leader in the fight against climate change and herald a new era of wrecking in the Amazon.

Foreign policy will also be upended, as Bolsonaro’s Brazil seeks a snug and historic allegiance with Donald Trump’s US and jettisons longstanding friendships with nations ruled by leftists, such as Cuba and Venezuela. “Everything we can legally and democratically do against these countries, we will do,” Bolsonaro recently vowed.

Bolsonaro’s English-speaking son, Eduardo, appears poised to play a super-sized role in Brasilia’s pivot to the White House, positioning himself as South American answer to Jared Kushner. Since his father’s election, he has hobnobbed with Ted Cruz and Steve Bannon in the US and repeatedly assailed Venezuela’s “narco-dictator” president, Nicolás Maduro.

Expect regional tensions to soar in 2019 as Trump and the Bolsonaros gang up on the disintegrating Bolivarian revolution and Maduro responds in increasingly bellicose fashion.

On the domestic front, dramatic changes loom, too, as Bolsonaro – egged on by the powerful, ultra-conservative evangelists to whom he owes his election – strives to lead Brazil down a profoundly reactionary path. His decision to name Damares Alves, an anti-abortion evangelical preacher, as head of a new ministry overseeing Brazilian women, families, human rights and indigenous communities is a harbinger of the intolerance and conservatism ahead.

The mere prospect of a Bolsonaro presidency has already sent same-sex couples rushing to the altar for fear they might lose such rights once the proud homophobe takes power. With Bolsonaro in office, expect bigotry, hate crime – and resistance from Brazil’s vibrant civil society – to increase.

Brazil is already one of Latin America’s most violent societies, suffering a record 63,880 homicides in 2017, but under Brazil’s pro-gun president things are almost certain to get worse.

Bolsonaro campaigned as a law and order candidate, vowing to use brute force and bullets to slay the drug traffickers behind much of that violence. But he appears to have no real plan to reduce crime beyond fighting violence with violence, and he is almost certain to fail. Instead, by legitimising the police’s use of deadly force, Bolsonaro’s pro-repression rhetoric is likely to accelerate the already rampant killing.

Rio de Janeiro, whose newly elected, pro-Bolsonaro governor has called for helicopter-borne snipers to be used to execute rifle-carrying criminals – is likely to suffer particularly. More than 1,400 people were reportedly gunned down by Rio police in 2018 – a death every five-and-a-half hours. With Bolsonaro’s blessing, the body count will rise.

In the final month before Tuesday’s inauguration, Brazil’s incoming president has hosted weekly Facebook Live broadcasts detailing his controversial and eccentric plans: a crackdown on immigrants who refuse to abandon their own culture and supposedly conspire to marry Brazilian children; a crusade against “unproductive” journalists and leftists who question him; doing away with indigenous reserves because he is convinced Brazil’s tribespeople no longer wish to be stuck “in the Stone Age”.

“The big day is arriving – 1 January!” Bolsonaro beamed in one recent webcast.

It is a date millions of progressive Brazilians have viewed with dread.

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