Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated on January 1st, and is rapidly enacting a series of bold policy changes. Some are viewed as positive for the United States and her allies.
Bolsonaro has informed Benjamin Netanyahu of his intention to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This has been reported in the Jerusalem Post.
He has stated a willingness to house a U.S. military base on Brazilian soil, in order to ease staging against Venezuelan military activity.
Asked by the SBT TV network in an interview taped on Thursday if that meant he would allow U.S. military presence in Brazil, Bolsonaro responded that he would certainly be willing to negotiate that possibility.Reuters
“Depending on what happens in the world, who knows if we would not need to discuss that question in the future,” Bolsonaro said.
He has announced plans to privatize 12 government-owned airports and 4 seaports, as part of a debt reduction plan, per CNBC.
Some policy changes, however, may generate concern, particularly as they were deemed important enough to be addressed on his first two days in office.
He has removed the responsibility to consider LGBT issues from the Human Rights Ministry, effectively eliminating any government oversight. This is a controversial position, as many perceive LGBT issues as having overly weighted influence in modern society, but there are concerns about the perceived targeting and scapegoating of minorities.
That view is underscored by the appointment of the new Human Rights Minister, Damares Alves. An evangelical pastor, she explained the position of the HRM as:
“Girls will be princesses and boys will be princes. There will be no more ideological indoctrination of children and teenagers in Brazil.”Associated Press
The perception of targeting is bolstered by the decision to shift the responsibility for oversight of indigenous peoples’ lands from the Justice Ministry to the Agriculture Ministry. Simultaneously, according to The Hill, he issued an order rendering it nearly impossible for native Brazilians to identify the official borders of their reserved lands. He explained in a tweet, translated by the newspaper:
“Less than one million people live in those places isolated from the real Brazil. They are explored and manipulated by nonprofits. Together we will integrate those citizens and give value to all Brazilians.”The Hill
Following the actions regarding minority populations, Bolsonaro turned to directly addressing his political enemies. From the AFP, by way of the Japan Times:
The government “will clean the house,” chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni told a news conference after the first Cabinet meeting with Bolsonaro, who took office this week.
“It’s the only way to govern with our ideas, our concepts and to carry out what Brazil’s society decided in its majority,” he said.
The “housecleaning” described is a purge of all government contractors who do not openly share Bolsonaro’s political views. 300 contractors under direct authority of the Chief of Staff have already been fired, although some will potentially be rehired if they can pass an examination of their political leanings. The purge is expected to continue throughout the government.
Having a large, influential country willing to ally with the U.S. is a good thing for the United States, particularly when recent governments of Brazil have been combative. Removing consideration for LGBT issues is not necessarily bad; it should not be a government’s position to advocate for a particular ideology. It is a government’s responsibility to ensure basic protections for its citizenry, however, and there are early signs that responsibility may be ignored in Brazil, particularly in regard to minorities and political dissenters.
Bolsonaro campaigned as a nationalist who embraced violent action against his enemies. If he performs as he had promised on the campaign trail, he will drag Brazil into fascistic rule; this must be a concern for America when considering an alliance.