Bolsonaro: The sulking brat and his temper tantrum

In delaying his recognition of Sunday’s election result, Brazil’s defeated President, Jair Bolsonaro, underlines his incapacity to hold office and reveals the smallness of the man he is. He is acting like a spoilt brat throwing a temper tantrum. Let us sum up the last 20 years of Brazil’s recent history in a nutshell and draw some conclusions.

Lula, terms 1 and 2

President Luiz Inácio da Silva, or Lula as he is known, was elected President in 2002 and again in 2006, holding office between 1st January 2003 to 31st December 2010, when he was succeeded by President Dilma Rousseff, from the same party, PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers’ Party). During his term in office, Lula lifted some forty million Brazilians out of poverty, took Brazil off the UNO’s hunger list and launched social policies which saw the economy grow, wealth redistributed, jobs appear, businesses open, exports skyrocket and externally Brazil became recognised as a major player on the internacional scene, making a huge contribution to development overseas.

Brazil, finally, had woken up.

Dilma, terms 1 and 2

President Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s chief of staff, continued his policy during her first term (2011 to 2014) and tried to continue in her second (2014 to 2016) until the carpet was pulled from under her feet by a palace coup led by Vice-President Michel Temer. At the end of her first term, her personal approval rating was 79%, and that of the government 63% but during her second term, protests broke out over the Petrobras scandal (in which politicians had received bribes in return for the provisioning of contracts) and also against the expense of holding the World Cup, although not a single document linked President Dilma herself to any wrongdoing. There followed Operation Car Wash, an investigation by the Federal Police into corruption among Brazil’s politicians and some members of Dilma’s party were involved. There was no evidence against her, yet she was removed in a palace coup, impeached in 2016 on a technicality of breaking budget laws (what she actually did was common political practice which never led to anyone’s impeachment before or after her). But in Uncle Sam’s back yard, social policies are very much frowned upon and anyway by now many external forces were missing a president that they could manipulate, doling out contracts at the expense of the Brazilian people.

Hysteria against PT

The wave of hysteria against the Workers’ Party was massive, sweeping over ex-President Lula himself (he was jailed for corruption in 2018 and spent 580 days in jail), yet on appeal all of the process against him was declared invalid. It was an underhanded political move to block him from the Presidency in 2018, won by Bolsonaro. (Lula would have won according to opinion polls).

Bolsonaro and the Bouncers

Why was Bolsonaro elected? Let us answer the question by seeing what his supporters are. Bolsonaro’s supporters are the Brazilian version of Trumpists in the USA, the Brazilian version of Brexiteers in the UK. The profile is the disco bouncer, or security guard, shaven-headed and tattooed, blowing bubble gum bubbles and popping them loudly during Mass, with more heart than brain, the type of individual that follows easy to understand soundbites and catchphrases, such as “The son starts acting all gay-like and gets a hiding from his dad, and changes his behaviour”; “Workers have to choose between rights and work”; “Gays aren’t semi-Gods, the great majority are the result of drug abuse”; “My children don’t run the risk of dating black girls or becoming gay because they were well brought up”, and other such nonsense.

You can see the type of person who voted for this homophobic, mysogenistic claptrap, mixed up with a backlash against the corruption revealed among some in the Workers’ Party (and the public image of Brazilian politicians in general) and this explains Bolsonaro. What did he actually do?

Bolsonaro: 4 years of damage to Brazil internally and externally

What did he do? A great deal, negatively. For a start, Brazil disappeared from the international stage and lost all respect. He came into office promising to crack down on violent crime, which, it is true, in the last four years was reduced, but only back to the levels experienced under President Lula in his second term in office. Today, 112 Brazilians die every single day, victims of violent crime, which is one every 12 minutes, or 41 thousand every year, in round figures. You dare not take an Uber from the airport in many cities because it will be attacked and you will be robbed, possibly shot, you cannot walk out to a shopping center or café without leaving all your jewellery, wallet, watches, wedding rings, behind; people live in condominiums with guards and gates, like a fortress. People are afraid to walk outside their homes.

His record on the Amazon and his register regarding the indigenous peoples are appalling, land continues to be stolen from them, they are shot if they protest and the Three Bs rule the roost in Bolsonaro’s Brazil – the Bible, Bull and Bullet lobbies. Illegal mining has exploded in the Amazon, creating a humanitarian crisis among the indigenous populations.

Lula solved the problems, Bolsonaro allowed them to reappear

Contracts have been handed out for Brazilian businessmen to export food without any attempt to protect the population from speculative price rises and so Brazil, the country that is the third largest exporter of food in the world, sees its children hungry, once more. Lula solved that, Bolsonaro started it again. His policy in controlling Covid was pracitcally non-existent with the President himself being a negationist and telling people to carry on working because Covid was like “a mild flu or cold”. 688,000 people perished.

Under Bolsonaro, toxic products were allowed to be used in agriculture; in real terms, buying power is down, wealth distribution is more accentuated among haves and have-nots, poverty in metropolitan regions has risen from 19.5% to nearly 24 per cent, extreme poverty rising from 4.4% to 6.3%.

Bolsonaro dismissed officials and scientists who disagreed with his policy of deforestation in the Amazon (which has reached a record high of 3,980 square kilometers in the first six months of 2022), public universities saw their funding frozen or cut (to favour the private ones) and scientists who disagreed with his Covid Policy, or lack of it, lost their jobs.


The conclusion is that while Bolsonaro was supported by those hopeful for a Messiah (his name is Jair Messias Bolsonaro), the fact is that he did not deliver and leaves Brazil worse than when he took office. On the bright side for him, there is now a Bolsonarista movement at the level of the National Congress (Federal Senate and Chamber of Deputies) and at the level of State Governors, a movement which did not exist four years ago. But if he behaves like a spoilt brat throwing a temper tantrum, he will lose any support he ever had very quickly.

The point is that Brazil is an emotive country whose people have and demand emotional intelligence, something which Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism does not have. Bolsonaro makes Brazil darker, Lula lighter. Bolsonaro represents the discotheque bouncer, Lula the heart and soul of the people whose only demand is to have a job, to be left alone in their homes, whether they be in a city or in the Amazon jungle, to be able to go about their lives without being robbed or shot, to have food to place on the table and to be able to afford to live. All of them, not just a few.

Bolsonaro will speak, he has to... but now it is too late.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey