Far right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro triumphed in Sunday’s first election round in Brazil. Voters put him at 46% over 29% for center-left candidate Fernando Haddad, who entered the race only in August after a court barred imprisoned ex-president Lula from running. In Chile, key right-wing figures José Antonio Kast and Manuel José Ossandón quickly jumped on the bandwagon and celebrated the rise of Brazil’s firebrand.
Ex-military Bolsonaro lived long on the fringes of Brazil’s political system, where he cultivated dictatorship nostalgia, homophobia and misogyny. Nonetheless, Bolsonaro has much sympathy for market freedom. He proudly stated to not have a clue about Economics, but fully trusts his adviser Paulo Guedes, an ex-banker with a degree from Chicago University, Guedes devises privatizing everything to solve the country’s economic woes.
Reactions from Chile
Accordingly, key Chilean right-wing figures were electrified. Bolsonaro’s political twin, José Antonio Kast, celebrated the former’s victory as “a categorical signal of rejection of the failed Latin American left. People want more liberty, more opportunity and more common sense.” Kast, like Bolsonaro also dwelling on the political fringes for years, shares the Brazilian’s dictatorship nostalgia and resentment for anything that looks red or pink. Both call for iron fist brutality to deal with appalling crime; Kast, however, invokes humanity in punishment whenever he seeks to help imprisoned murderers of Pinochet’s dictatorship.
El triunfo de @jairbolsonaro es una señal categórica de rechazo a la izquierda fracasada de Latinoamérica. Las personas quieren más libertad, más oportunidades y más sentido común. #DespiertaUnGigante #DespiertaBrasil
— José Antonio Kast 🇨🇱 (@joseantoniokast) October 7, 2018
Conservative senator Manuel José Ossandón, a member of President Sebastián Piñera’s National Renovation party, also on Twitter, wrote that “The candidate for security and values (Jair Bolsonaro) demolished [the left] and former president and icon of corruption (Dilma Rousseff) was not elected senator. Brazilians got tired, they woke up, and today they went out en masse to say no more Left.”
Jair #Bolsonaro has won the first round of the presidential elections in #Brazil. He secured 46% of the votes, while leftist candidate Fernando #Haddad got 28% of the votes. The second round will be on October 28.https://t.co/QHxLLRJ7uW
— Chile Today News (@ChileTodayNews) October 8, 2018
Rousseff tried to get a foot back in the door after her impeachment in 2016 on trumped up charges. During the proceedings, Bolsonaro dedicated his pro-impeachment vote to the man who tortured Rousseff during the dictatorship. No wonder the values he espouses and Ossandón chooses to ignore include denying, at least implicitly, homosexuals the right to life (”I’d rather have a dead son over a gay son.”), normalizing dictatorship, and seeing women as inferior, sometimes not even worthy of rape. As devout evangelicals, Bolsonaro and Ossandón also connect deeply via their faith.
Until recently, comments like Bolsonaro’s were unacceptable in Chilean politics. The political class, left, right, center, took pride in being rational, not emotional or populist. Kast’s scarcely-analyzed ascendancy in last year’s election – he won 8% in the first round and his voters were key to carry Piñera’s victory in the second – foreshadowed changes. With Bolsonaro’s all but certain rise to Brazil’s presidency after the second round on October 28, Chile’s right-wing, however, seems determined to come around full circle.
Christian is Managing Editor at Chile Today, where he curates the foreign policy blog Teatinos One/Eighty. Christian is also Lead Editor of E-International Relations, co-editor of an open access textbook on International Relations Theory and Director at the Chilean Association of International Specialists (ACHEI).