New Brazilian President to impact Latin America
Far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro won Sunday’s runoff election to become the next President of Brazil in a vote that is likely to have repercussions not just in Brazil, but throughout Latin America and even globally.
Bolsonaro defeated former Sao Paolo Mayor Fernando Haddad by more than nine million votes in a resounding victory that was a put-down to the corruption and economic and political instability that has marked Brazil in recent years.
Haddad stepped in for former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption. Even so, Lula was ahead in the polls in September, before his candidacy was legally nixed and Haddad stepped in to replace him.
Although traditional political parties and politicians considered Bolsonaro too extreme because of his attacks on women, gays, and minority Brazilians, voters had a different take.
Apparently forgotten was the former Army captain’s attacks on democracy during his time as a legislator when he said he was in favor of “dictatorship,” although he now says he will follow democratic principles.
"You are all my witnesses that this government will defend the constitution, of liberty and of God," Bolsonaro said in a Facebook live video shortly after his victory was secured.
Still the concept of military dictatorship remains a tender spot in Brazil, which was governed by a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. Bolsonaro is expected to bring several retired generals into his Cabinet.
But although Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is being viewed with concern by some politicians around the globe. US President Donald Trump is hailing Bolsonaro’s victory. “Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else.”
The Markets were also happy with Bolsonaro's victory, and when the election results were finalized, Brazil's benchmark Bovespa stock index hit an all-time high.
Brazil's currency, the real, gained around 10% against the dollar this month and interest rate futures have tightened.
Investors and potential investors are also pleased by Bolsonaro’s choice of Paulo Guedes, a Chicago University-trained economist and investment banker as future economy minister.
If the economy booms, that will likely spill over to the tourism and duty-free sectors, especially as the Latin American summer approaches. Bolsonaro will be sworn in as President on January 1.
Bolsonaro was critically injured when he was stabbed while campaigning last month. But the near-fatal attack only seemed to boost Bolsonaro’s popularity and political chances for success on Sunday.