The tropical Trump without Trump: the future of Brazilian president Bolsonaro

Brazil and the United States have always maintained a close relationship, but during the presidency of Bolsonaro (also known as the tropical Trump) in Brazil and Trump in the US, the two countries collaborated even more intensively. For this reason, with Trump losing the election in November 2020, Brazilian president Bolsonaro has surely lost a key partner in the international scenario. However, the stability of his presidency seems to be unaffected by this event. 

An ability to overshadow criticism 

Over the last years, all sorts of scandals have been related to Bolsonaro and his way of doing politics. Controversial decisions and positions on many topics provoked criticism and protests from a varied mix of internal and external groups: from defenders of human and women’s rights, anti-racism associations to environmental organizations and protectors of indigenous societies. Bolsonaro’s presidency has faced so many challenges that it is practically impossible to record everything it went through. 

Nevertheless, each dispute involving Bolsonaro shares a common aspect: the ability of the president to largely overshadow criticisms. Brazil’s current president has manged to effectively avoid being truly confronted with issues that are likely to be problematic for his campaign. Did human and women’s rights in Brazil experience a true discussion? Did racism and the defense of indigenous groups in Brazil receive a deep analysis? Did a real debate regarding the protection of Brazilian nature rise? Bolsonaro and his strong, aggressive attitude guarantee that these kinds of topics are treated only superficially.

The focus is set on success instead 

On the other hand, each opportunity is deemed to be the right one to discuss success. Bolsonaro is perfectly conscious of this idea and thus, there is no situation where he does not underline some kind of victory. To support this argument, there is the very recent example of the government handouts given to the population in the north-east of Brazil in order to overshadow the crisis provoked by Covid-19. This manoeuvre received an enormous media coverage and the president became very popular in a region once opposed to him. 

However, this is not everything about this story. Bolsonaro also used the occasion to announce the promise of finishing the government’s infrastructural interventions in the region to counter water shortages. The statement was celebrated by the entire country, despite the fact that nothing has been completed regarding this required work. Bolsonaro could eventually gain even more supporters amid the Covid-19 crisis because of his great ability to keep the attention of the population on issues that benefit his campaign.

The future of the political career of Bolsonaro

Taking everything into account, the political future of Bolsonaro seems positive. Even though the politics of the tropical Trump resembled those of Trump himself (and we all know how this story ended), Bolsonaro is apparently far from losing the presidential office. Speculating about the future is, however, always a very difficult and to some extent useless task. Nevertheless, it is necessary to admit that the successful strategy adopted by Bolsonaro against those who oppose him is a real and strong fact supporting the possibility of a new Bolsonaro mandate in 2022. 

Chile’s interminable journey towards democracy

In the last years, Chile was largely thought of as one of the most democratic and safe countries of the entire Latin American region. These important considerations had both been proven empirically and by research. Therefore, it was commonly understood that Chile had reached a sort of democratic stability and would no longer subjected to extreme changes.  

However, what happened approximately one year ago is common knowledge: Chile was overcome by an overwhelming wave of violent protests. These circumstances immediately provoked chaos and disruption in society and ultimately led to the end of the country’s democratic project and the worst socio-political crisis since the end of the Chilean military dictatorship in 1990. 

The main reasons behind the protests were the fight against injustice and inequality (unfortunately two always flourishing concepts in many Latin American countries, also in systems deemed to be democratically advanced). Nevertheless, these motives alone failed to fully explain the ferocity of the demonstrations as they could not completely answer the question as to what the Chilean people wanted to effectively achieve with these actions. 

After many months of violence and suffering, however, it looks like the ultimate goal of the protests is finally clear: Chile is searching for a complete separation from its difficult, dictatorial past. This is strongly illustrated by the impressive number of voters who support a new Chilean constitution. The latter is to be completely detached from the present document, which was approved during and by the military dictatorship.

The formulation of a new constitution is to be interpreted as the first step into a new era for Chile, where democracy is constructed on a solid base and not the result of a difficult transition from a military dictatorship. In these terms, the fact that this new democracy is deeply wanted by the people is a good sign for the Chilean project. 

Taking everything into account, the future finally seems bright for Chile. Therefore, it is even more important that no one takes democracy for granted. In the context of Latin America, this is an extremely fragile principle that needs meticulous and continuous attention.

Informes, Corporación Latinobarómetro, 25 October 2020. 

Quality of Democracy, Democracy Barometer, 27 October 2020.