Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro declared a crusade against crime, corruption and leftwing ideology as he took office Tuesday for a four-year term at the helm of Latin America’s biggest nation.
In his first public speech wearing the presidential sash, Boslonaro said Brazil will “start to free itself of socialism” and “political correctness,” breaking with policies brought in under decades of leftist rule.
In his inauguration speech before Brazil’s Congress, Bolsonaro called for “a true national pact” to restore his country’s lackluster economy, “without ideological bias.”
While Bolsonaro enjoys sky-high approval ratings, many in Brazil fear his nostalgia for the military dictatorship that reigned from 1964 to 1985, his hardline approach to fighting crime and his record of disparaging women and minorities could herald a harsh shake-up.
Even before being sworn in, Bolsonaro tweeted he would issue a decree easing gun laws to let “good” citizens own firearms to counter armed criminals — a measure opposed by 61 percent of Brazilians, according to a Datafolha survey.
His promise to extend immunity to security forces who use lethal force against suspected wrongdoers has also sparked unease in a country where some 5,000 people a year are already killed by police.
In his speech to Congress, Bolsonaro repeatedly hammered leftwing “ideology” that he said had brought Brazil low.
His past remarks made it clear he was referring to policies implemented by the Workers Party, which governed between 2003 and 2016 but ended up reviled for a string of corruption scandals.
Brazil “will return to be a country free of ideological bonds,” he said.
He later told a crowd of supporters in front of the presidential palace: “We will re-establish order.”
Bolsonaro has already said he will do all he can to challenge the leftist governments of Venezuela and Cuba.
The new leader’s open hostility to the left prompted leftwing deputies to spurn his investiture.
Bolsonaro took over the presidency from a centre-right figure, Michel Temer, who succeeded the Workers Party Dilma Rousseff — impeached in 2016 — but who made little headway with needed fiscal reforms. Temer, Brazil’s most unpopular leader ever, faces a number of corruption accusation on leaving office.
Bolsonaro supporters hope their man will do better, politically and economically.
He has promised to govern for all of the country’s 210 million Brazilians, though his initial declaration suggests it will be on his terms, as he seeks to remake the country around his agenda.