Bolsonaro sworn in as Brazil’s president on wave of conservative zeal

Former army captain known for his outbursts against leftists and LGBT people

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new president, and his wife Michelle: “We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots.” Photograph: Andre Coelho/Bloomberg

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new president, and his wife Michelle: “We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots.” Photograph: Andre Coelho/Bloomberg

 

Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as the 42nd president of Brazil, to the delight of passionate supporters, many of whom had travelled to its modernist capital for the event, convinced the far-right populist can rescue their troubled country from virulent corruption, rising violent crime and economic doldrums.

Cheered by a crowd of supporters with Brazilian flags, the former army captain waved from an open-topped Rolls Royce as he was driven to a ceremony at the city’s futuristic, Oscar Niemeyer-designed cathedral before he and his vice-president, retired army general Hamilton Mourao, were sworn in at Congress.

In a brief speech to the chamber of deputies, Bolsonaro thanked God for his surviving a near-fatal knife attack during the election campaign and invited lawmakers to help Brazil free itself from “corruption, criminality and economic responsibility and ideological submission”.

“We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots,” he said. “We are going to unite the people, rescue the family, respect religions and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat genre ideology, conserving our values.”

He also referred to campaign promises such as freeing up gun possession. “Good citizens deserve the means to defend themselves,” he said. Bolsonaro said he was counting on Congress support to provide “legal support” for police to do their work; he has promised impunity for police who kill criminals. “They deserve it and must be respected,” he said.

Indigenous reserves

Bolsonaro has enjoyed the support of Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, which he said will have an “increase in efficiency” with “less bureaucracy” – words which have alarmed environmentalists and indigenous activists concerned by his plans to streamline environmental licensing and allow commercial mining and farming on protected indigenous reserves.

He also took aim at the leftist Workers’ party which he has painted as communists responsible for all Brazil’s ills, from crime to corruption.

“Irresponsibility conducted us to the worst ethical, moral and economic crisis in our history,” he said.

Minutes afterwards, Donald Trump tweeted that Bolsonaro had made a “great inauguration speech”, adding: “The USA is with you!”

Shortly afterwards, Bolsonaro’s Twitter account replied: “Dear Mr President @realDonaldTrump, I truly appreciate your words of encouragement. Together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people.”

Righteous anger

Bolsonaro, a former army captain who served seven undistinguished terms as a member of Brazil’s lower house, was until this year regarded as a marginal figure known for his outbursts against leftists and LGBT people. He rode a wave of righteous anger to power provoked by sweeping corruption scandals and economic recession that Bolsonaro blamed on the leftist Workers’ party that ran Brazil for 13 years.

In an aggressive and deeply polarised campaign that made adept use of social media, Bolsonaro focused his attacks on leftist former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – currently serving a prison sentence for graft – and his successor Dilma Rousseff, impeached in 2016 for breaking budget rules.

Bolsonaro’s election victory marks a dramatic swing to the right for Brazil, which from 1964 to 1985 was run by a military dictatorship that its new president has expressed support for.

The inauguration took place under the tightest security team seen in decades. Crowds of supporters passed through four checkpoints, including metal detectors. – Guardian