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LAST SEPTEMBER 7th, millions of Brazilians celebrated their bicentennial of independence. It was genuinely impressive, at least in images. Some Brazilian analysts say it was a never-before-seen demonstration of patriotism and faith, with people all over the country singing the national anthem, praying the Lord’s Prayer, and accompanying the leading political figure of the South American nation: President Jair Bolsonaro.
The president, seeking re-election next month and locked in a tight race with leftist candidate Luda da Silva, appeared in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia to celebrate the cry for independence. However, the celebration was all over the country, from Manaus to Foz do Iguaçu, from Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo; there was almost no city without a Brazilian wearing the green-yellow or flying the carioca flag.
Se estima que más de un millón de personas acudieron bajo la lluvia a la Avenida Paulista de São Paulo en un acto a favor del presidente Bolsonaro, quién disputará su reelección contra el socialista Lula da Silva:pic.twitter.com/TT6Ru1Y1MO
— Emmanuel Rincón (@EmmaRincon) September 7, 2022
However, despite the fact that Brazilians celebrated their independence with great patriotic fervor, the international media were quick to cry foul, accusing Bolsonaro of politicizing September 7th and organizing “controversial” rallies on that date.
El País in Spain, CNN in the United States, La Nación in Argentina, Le Monde in France, and dozens of international media from around the globe, took the opportunity to criticize once again Jair Bolsonaro, who in recent weeks began to considerably reduce the gap in the polls with Lula da Silva. Polls already place him in a technical tie with the former socialist president.
In Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, people clamor for the re-election of Jair Bolsonaro (EFE).
It is no surprise that the international press acts as if Bolsonaro were the first president to celebrate his country’s independence in the streets with his supporters. In general, journalism has raged against the conservative president, attacking his administration, manipulating his statements, and even calling him a dictator.
The comparison has become a cliché, but it is still valid: no politician is more similar to Donald Trump than Jair Bolsonaro. For his way of doing politics, his ideas, and his relationship with the mainstream media. Yes, almost all conservative politicians worldwide have indeed been compared to the inevitable Trump phenomenon. Still, the difference is that with the Brazilian, the simile applies. Several reasons prove it, including the outstanding achievements of his presidency, which try to be hidden, albeit unsuccessfully, by his haters. Here are 5 of those achievements.
1. Jair Bolsonaro is an economic success story
Even though he had to deal with a pandemic that hit the global economy, Brazil came out practically unscathed compared to other major countries. The numbers speak for themselves: while the U.S. economy contracted for the second consecutive quarter and entered recession, Brazil has been growing for four consecutive quarters. This is a positive sign of a dynamic economy that has attracted a great deal of foreign investment, positioning it among the top 10 most invested countries in the world, and has welcomed with open arms the significant tax cuts led by Bolsonaro.
The GDP growth is mainly due to the fact that the Brazilian president opposed the confinements due to the pandemic like just a few others did. The latter was an ironclad position that earned him numerous international condemnations, including by health authorities and politicians around the world, but saved the Brazilian economy from a heavy blow. Today, the service sector is driving employment and the economy.
There are more positive indicators. For example, the unemployment rate fell to 9.1% in the quarter ending in July; the lowest in seven years with the big difference that now these jobs came from the private initiative and not from the State coffers —which previously employed hundreds of thousands of people with salaries that came out of taxpayers’ pockets and did not contribute to economic dynamism.
In fact, under Bolsonaro’s government, the reduction of public spending has been remarkable, including a historic elimination of more than 27,000 positions in the public sector.
Marcos Schotgues, a journalist at The Epoch Times and broadcaster NTD, comments that the success of Bolsonaro’s economic management is due to several factors, including the “relaxation of regulation and bureaucracy.”
“In a practical example, the average time to open a business has dropped from months in previous times to an average of one day and two hours in July this year,” Schotgues said in a detailed explanation sent to El American.
Schotgues also highlights that, in recent months, “inflation in Brazil was in similar or better conditions than those of developed economies such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States on a year-on-year basis.”
He also emphasized growth in infrastructure, citing several major works completed under Bolsonaro’s leadership and recalling the progress “with determination in the transposition of the São Francisco River, a work initiated in the PT era and permeated with slowness and inefficiency, bringing water to drought regions in the northeast.”
2. Security under the conservative government
Brazil, especially in large cities, has been characterized as insecure. As is the case, in fact, in most of the region. Who has not heard, for example, of the favelas of Rio, those neighborhoods where criminality dominates unchallenged, whipping civilians in that area. Well, under Bolsonaro, the situation has taken a major turn.
In this 2022, homicides in Brazil fell to the lowest level in the last 15 years, and this has coincided with an important advance in the free carrying of weapons.
“Under his administration, the number of legal firearms in circulation in the country reportedly tripled,” Schotgues tells El American, who noted that the Brazilian president took the arming of civilians very seriously, explaining that, as a result, good citizens can defend themselves against criminals.
President Jair Bolsonaro speaks on Sept. 7, during an Independence Day rally in Brasilia (EFE).
Apparently, Bolsonaro’s tough hand against crime and push for the free carrying of weapons had a more than positive impact on the drop in murders since he came to power. In 2019, homicides in Brazil fell by 19.2 %. At the time, the murder data was the lowest in twelve years. 2020 was the exception for Bolsonaro with the pandemic, as murders increased, but in 2021 murders fell again to a record low.
3. Bolsonaro and the defense of economic and social freedom
For Márcio Gualberto, who is seeking re-election as state deputy for Rio de Janeiro, “Bolsonaro respected and defended democracy and the freedom of the Brazilian people.” He says this despite attacks from the press and detractors.
Gualberto, in conversation with El American, insists on distinguishing him from the last Brazilian predecessors, Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff: “There are many differences: Bolsonaro is honest, is patriotic, loves the Brazilian people, defends the principles and values of society, has assembled a technical and very competent ministry… In short, Dilma and Lula are extremely dishonest and ruin the country. The one who managed to get Brazil out of chaos was President Jair Messias Bolsonaro.”
These are words, indeed, from an ally. However, one can also find several points of Bolsonaro’s government in defense of individual freedoms and the free market.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he was one of the world leaders most opposed to closures or quarantines, mask mandates, and mandatory vaccination requirements. His rhetoric was clear: responsibility was individual, and Brazilians could not be forced to take a vaccine they did not want or to be arbitrarily masked.
We can also mention the Economic Freedom Law. This regulation has greatly reduced the bureaucracy that directly affects small and medium-sized companies, or the large privatization process carried out by the Bolsonaro administration, considered the largest in the country’s history.
Although the one who went most in-depth about Bolsonaro’s fight in favor of individual freedoms was Schotgues of The Epoch Times, who took the opportunity to leave a message for the international press:
“Bolsonaro is quoted by the foreign press as an authoritarian. He must be the only authoritarian on record in the history of the world who repeatedly defends freedom of expression in the face of a press that is dedicated daily to dislodging him from power,” Schotgues told El American. “Moreover, he would be such a narrow-minded tyrant that he constantly calls for transparency in elections and relaxation for the legal purchase of firearms with the slogan ‘an armed people will never be enslaved.”
4. A stop at the Sao Paulo Forum
Under Bolsonaro, Brazil’s foreign policy took a 180-degree turn concerning regional alliances. The South American giant went from being a close ally of the region’s communist dictatorships —Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua— to being a clear counterweight and a direct opponent of the far-left organization Sao Paulo Forum. Their founders are, precisely, the late dictator Fidel Castro and Bolsonaro’s presidential adversary, Lula da Silva.
“Under the governments of Lula and Dilma, Brazil was gradually heading towards becoming a regime friendly to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, a kind of ‘kleptocracy’ where the resources of this vast empire that is the country where I was born would be the source of income for the communist gangs that insist on parasitizing our dear neighbors in the continent,” Schotgues stated.
This is an inescapable reality: Bolsonaro has been tough on Caracas, Havana, and Managua. His pulse has not trembled to criticize the region’s tyrants and denounce them before the international community. Moreover, he snatched an ally from the heart of South America by unseating the progressive Dilma and Lula.
Schotgues also explains that Bolsonaro “is the exception to the rule” within the Latin American political context as he is a much more effective leader in fighting against the advance of the left in the region compared to other “right-wing” presidents who present themselves more to the political center, such as Mauricio Macri (Argentina) or Sebastián Piñera (Chile).
5. Recovery of national pride
The last outstanding achievement of Jair Bolsonaro, which is less tangible than the rest but just as important, is the recovery of a national patriotic feeling embodied last September 7th.
Journalist Paulo Briguet from Brasil Sem Medo explains it to El American in a didactic way: “Bolsonaro’s greatest achievement is to have rescued the pride of being Brazilian.”
“What we saw today in the main Brazilian cities, and what BSM reporters and correspondents showed to the whole country, was the joy of people for being what they are and loving what they love: God, Homeland, family, and freedom,” said a proud Briguet. “These people are proud to wear the yellow-green, feel appreciation for the national symbols and consider that manifesting patriotism is not only a right of every citizen but also a serious duty towards future generations.”
Although Jair Bolsonaro boasts great achievements, he still has a great challenge ahead: to reach reelection. His legacy could be dissolved in the eventual triumph of his political nemesis Lula da Silva. With polls showing a narrow margin in favor of the leftist, the conservative president has a little less than a month to make a strong showing and win a historic reelection.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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