The election of Jair Messias Bolsonaro represents an existential threat to democracy in Brazil, says Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, an expert in Latin American political and economic development.
Speaking on the Today Programme, the professor of Political Economy at SOAS University of London stated:
“This is the absolute reality. Bolsonaro has no commitment to democracy in the country. In fact he has, as you have mentioned, made repeated statements in support of the military dictatorship, in support of torture, in support of killing people he disagrees with, in support of discrimination against people who look, or may behave, or may be different from what he considers to be ideal. So this is an absolute threat to the notion of citizenship in Brazil that has been built in the last thirty years of democracy.
“He has an old statement on television that he would implement a military coup on the first day in office. Brazil is a decentralised democracy with a strong judiciary and a strong legislature, but Bolsonaro does have very clear authoritarian tendencies, so he is a danger to democracy in that very clear sense.”
Challenged on whether the Left had created the vacuum for Bolsonaro’s rise through allowing systemic corruption to continue unabated, Alfredo responded:
“Corruption is the traditional way in which the Brazilian political system works. It has always been like this for 500 years of the existence of the country. But corruption is also the only way in which the Brazilian Right has managed to win elections and gain mass attraction. So if you look back to 1954, 1961, 1989 and 2013, corruption is the only way in which you build a mass movement for the Right. And it has worked this time again with the support of the media. This is not the end of corruption in Brazilian politics. This would require a deep rooted reform of the political system – transparency, accountability – and a reform of business practises. This is not on the horizon. This is, I think, talk.”
Alfredo Saad Filho is a professor of Political Economy at SOAS University of London.