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Brazil’s Bolsonaro-Led Far Right Wins a Victory Far More Sweeping and Dangerous Than Anyone Predicted. Its Lessons Are Global.

Jair Bolsonaro has been instantly transformed from marginalized clown into the overwhelmingly dominant force in the country’s political life

Jair Bolsonaro has criticized monsters such as Chile’s Pinochet and Peru’s Fujimori – for not slaughtering more domestic opponents.(Photo: Fabio Teixeira/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Jair Bolsonaro (above left) has criticized monsters such as Chile’s Pinochet and Peru’s Fujimori – for not slaughtering more domestic opponents.(Photo: Fabio Teixeira/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

For the past thirty years, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was a fringe extremist in Brazilian politics, known mostly for outlandish, deliberately inflammatory quotes in which he paid homage to the most notorious torturers of the 1964-1985 military regime, constantly heralded the 1964 coup as a “defense of democracy,” told a female socialist colleague in Congress that she was too ugly to “deserve” his rape, announced that he’d rather learn that his son died in a car accident than was gay, and said he conceived a daughter after having four sons only due to a “moment of weakness.” (Last September, he used Google to translate a Brazilian epithet for LGBTs to, in essence, call me a faggot on Twitter).

His policy prescriptions were even more deranged. Western media has often referred to him as “Brazil’s Trump” but that is wildly inaccurate, understating the case by many magnitudes. In temperament, ideology, and personal history, Bolsonaro – a former Army Captain during Brazil’s notorious 21-year military dictatorship – is far closer to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte or Egyptian dictator General Abdel El-Sisi than Trump.

He has advocated that mainstream Brazilian politicians be killed.

His primary solution to the nation’s crime epidemic is to unleash the military and police into the nation’s slums and give them what he calls “carte blanche” to indiscriminately murder anyone they suspect to be criminals, acknowledging many innocents will die in the process. He has criticized monsters such as Chile’s Pinochet and Peru’s Fujimori – for not slaughtering more domestic opponents. He has advocated that mainstream Brazilian politicians be killed. He wants to chemically castrate sex offenders. In all respects, the hideous Brazilian military dictatorship that took over Brazil and ruled it for 21 years – torturing and summarily executing dissidents, with the support of the US and UK in the name of fighting Communists – is his model of governance.

As a result of Sunday's truly stunning national election in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has been instantly transformed from marginalized clown into the overwhelmingly dominant force in the country’s political life. Bolsonaro himself fell just short of winning the 50% needed to win the presidency without a run-off.

But given the margin of victory, he is the overwhelming favorite to win on October 28 against the second-place candidate, ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad is the previously unknown, hand-picked successor anointed by Lula, the ex-two-term President who had been leading all polls until he was convicted on dubious corruption charges and quickly imprisoned so as to bar his candidacy, then silenced by Brazil’s right-wing judiciary with a series of remarkable prior restraint censorship orders barring all media outlets from interviewing him.

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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