Reuters, January 1, 2019
Brazil’s newly inaugurated President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday his election had freed the country from “socialism and political correctness,” and he vowed to tackle corruption, crime and economic mismanagement in Latin America’s largest nation.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain turned lawmaker who openly admires Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, promised in his first remarks as president to adhere to democratic norms, after his tirades against the media and political opponents had stirred unease.
While investors hope Bolsonaro’s free-market stance will reinvigorate Brazil’s economy – the eight largest in the world – environmentalists and rights groups are worried he will roll back protections for the Amazon rain forest and loosen gun controls in a country that already has the world’s highest number of murders.
“This is the beginning of Brazil’s liberation from socialism, political correctness and a bloated state,” Bolsonaro, 63, said in an address to the nation made after he donned the presidential sash.
A seven-term congressman who spent decades on the fringes of Brazilian politics, Bolsonaro was swept to power in October by voters’ outrage with traditional political parties, making him Brazil’s first right-wing president since the dictatorship.
Following a knife attack during the presidential campaign that left Bolsonaro hospitalized for weeks, security was tight for his inauguration. Some 10,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed on the streets of Brasilia, the capital, as Bolsonaro and his wife rode in an open-topped Rolls-Royce to Congress.
Bolsonaro, who was sworn in before a joint session of Congress, called on lawmakers to help him “free the nation definitively from the yoke of corruption, crime, economic irresponsibility and ideological submission.”
Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing-nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly U.S. President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his inauguration.
Trump congratulated Bolsonaro in a Twitter message, writing “The USA is with you.”
Backed massively by conservative sectors of Brazil, including Christian evangelical churches, Bolsonaro would block moves to legalize abortion beyond even the current limited exceptions and remove sex education from public schools, opposing what he calls “cultural Marxism” introduced by recent leftist governments.
Tackling ‘Brazil’s cost’
In an interview with Record TV on the eve of his inauguration, Bolsonaro lashed out at Brazil’s notorious bureaucracy, which makes doing business difficult and expensive. He vowed to strip away the so-called “Brazil Cost” that hamstrings private enterprise.
Bolsonaro’s vow to follow Trump’s example and pull Brazil out of the Paris climate change agreement has worried environmentalists. So have his plans to build hydroelectric dams in the Amazon and open up to mining the reservations of indigenous peoples who are seen as the last custodians of the world’s biggest forest.