There are many questions that arise after the Bolsonaro storm. The first and most important of all of them is if he will be able to avoid the ballot, predictably alone. The second is how and why the PT has collapsed and, in general, the Brazilian left-wing, the hegemonic force of the country for a quarter of a century.
Nothing of what has happened in Brazil in the last four years is understandable without first taking into account the economic crisis that plagues the country. Brazil has passed in a very short time of being the miracle child of America to be the sick man of whom everyone takes pity but who nobody wants at his side.
The root causes of this Brazilian depression are very similar to the Spanish one a decade ago. On indebtedness and on investment in ruinous sectors. All duly seasoned by the omnipresent political corruption. The scourge of the last one has been even higher than in Spain. To this day, two former presidents are splashed with corruption. Lula da Silva is in prison since last April serving a sentence of nine years. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, was dismissed by the Senate in August 2016 after being accused of making up the fiscal accounts.
As a consequence the PT has gone from heaven to hell. At its peak, back in 2006, it obtained 48% of the votes. This Sunday did not reach 30%, a worse record than Lula’s in the nineties. What has happened in these twelve years? Too many things and almost all bad for Lula and his own. The crisis has hit them hard. Many of those who previously applauded them now carry on their backs the current miseries resulting from the brutal adjustment of the economy. But it has been corruption that has left the PT out of the game. Unable to draw on their charismatic figure, they introduced Fernando Haddad, mayor of Sao Paulo until two years ago and former education minister of Lula. A gray character and not especially attractive to the “trabalhista” voter.
In 2013 he took over the mayor of the country’s main city in the second round puffing and panting. Once inside, it filled the city with bike lanes and raised the price of public transport tickets. That caused him great manifestations against him and not only on the right.
Haddad did not have, as we see, the best of the records to face the perfect storm that has been formed during the last two years. If the crisis was the clouds and corruption the rain, Jair Bolsonaro has been the hurricane wind.
Nobody could foresee it. Bolsonaro is not an upstart Donald Trump. He has spent his whole life there, 27 years warming up a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia and is well known in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, a city in which he was a councilor after leaving the army in the late eighties.
This man, a professional politician, an honored man as far as we know in a country in which this quality is not usual, has turned everything upside down. His program is in many ways similar to the one that brought Trump to the White House. He has promised extreme harshness with corruption, exemplary punishments for common criminals, overcoming the economic crisis with measures in favor of the market and renewed patriotic pride. That of Bolsonaro is, in a certain way, the antipolitics that are giving such good results to some parties on this side of the Atlantic and that in Brazil it has managed to seduce almost half of the electorate.
The other half has been positioned against him. Today Brazil is summarized in those who are in favor of Bolsonaro and those who hate him. This polarization has resulted in the axis of the debate sliding to the right. In these elections there was no longer so much talking about distributing the dwindling wealth as the best way to fight against the crime that ravages every city in the country.
In the end what has happened so many other times has happened again. The excesses of left-wing governments bring picturesque candidates of the populist right, generally embraced by the flag. So, no matter how much you insist on Europe and the United States in Bolsonaro’s incendiary statements about minorities, what is fueling the political debate in Brazil are other matters that have more to do with security and honesty of public offices.
* Traducción: Rainer Hernández Tió