Sunday 13 October 2019

Far-right firebrand Bolsonaro is sworn in as president of Brazil

Salute: Supporters of Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro gather in Brasilia. Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Salute: Supporters of Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro gather in Brasilia. Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

James Rothwell

Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, promised to work closely with Donald Trump "under God's -protection" to bring prosperity to both countries as he was sworn in last night.

The far-Right nationalist, known as the "Trump of the Tropics", vowed to crack down on corruption and violent crime in a long-awaited speech following his shock election in October.

The 63-year-old former Army captain has pledged to tackle street crime by arming civilians and believes police officers who kill suspects should be decorated rather than investigated.

"I will work tirelessly so that Brazil reaches its destiny," said Mr Bolsonaro, the latest populist to exploit anti-establishment fury. "My vow is to strengthen Brazil's democracy," he added.

Crowds of supporters, many with the Brazilian flag draped around their shoulders and with faces painted -yellow and green, the national colours, gathered before the Planalto palace, where Brazil's new leader was -presented with the presidential sash.

Once an outsider mocked by fellow lawmakers for his far-right positions, constant use of expletives and even casual dressing, the 63-year-old long-time congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energised Brazilian conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers' Party.

Mr Bolsonaro is the latest of several far-right leaders around the world who have come to power by riding waves of anger at the establishment and promises to ditch the status quo.

"I will cry" upon seeing Bolsonaro inaugurated, said Paulo de Sousa, a teacher from Rio de Janeiro who travelled to the capital of Brasilia for the ceremony. "It will be a wonderful year. We have to help our president to achieve that. There will be jobs, health and peace."

Brasilia was under tight security, with 3,000 police patrolling the event. Military tanks, fighter jets and even anti-aircraft missiles were also deployed.

The increased security came at Mr Bolsonaro's request. His intestine was pierced when a knife-wielding man stabbed him at a campaign rally in September, and he has to wear a colostomy bag.

His sons, politicians themselves, insisted their father could be targeted by radicals, but security officials had not spoken of threats.

Mr Bolsonaro is a hugely controversial figure because of his track record for making racist and sexist comments and displaying nostalgia for the former military dictatorship. He has spoken of how he would punch a gay couple if he saw them kissing in public and has -admitted he would "be incapable of loving a homosexual child".

Mr Bolsonaro is appealing a fine he received for telling a female politician during a heated row: "I wouldn't rape you because you don't deserve it."

In a TV interview in 1999, he said he yearned for the days of the military -dictatorship, which killed hundreds between 1964-85, adding: "I'm in -favour of torture. You know that. And the people are too."

The new president hopes to realign Brazilian diplomacy towards the -interests of Mr Trump, who sent Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, to the inauguration ceremony.

Mr Trump congratulated Mr Bolsonaro on his "great inauguration speech", adding: "The US is with you!"

Responding on social media, which he uses to sidestep the mainstream press, Mr Bolsonaro said: "Dear Mr President, I truly appreciate your words of encouragement. Together, under God's protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people!"

Mr Bolsonaro says he will prioritise the fight against crime in a nation that has long led the world in annual homicides. More than 63,000 people were killed last year. Human rights groups fear his defence of police violence could shield officers from investigations of misconduct and lead to more extrajudicial killings.

Seven of Bolsonaro's 22 cabinet ministers are former military personnel, more than in any administration during Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship. That has sparked fears among his adversaries of a return to autocratic rule.

Irish Independent

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