Bolsonaro woos Brazil voters with simple recipe for ending violence
08 October 2018
RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) -
Jair Bolsonaro topped the poll in the first round of Brazil's presidential elections, having seduced tens of millions of voters with simple -- though radical -- solutions to eradicating violence in one of the world's deadliest countries.
For many, Bolsonaro has the answer to the question that has preoccupied them for years -- how to lower the crime rate in a country with more than seven murders an hour?
"Give guns to good people," the former paratrooper insisted during campaign meetings.
"If one of us, a civilian or a soldier, is attacked... and if he fires 20 times at the assailant, he should be decorated and not have to go to court," the far-right candidate told a campaign meeting in the northern Rio neighborhood of Madureira in August.
It was a simple speech that hit the mark for Jamaya Beatriz, a manicurist from this violent suburb of Rio De Janeiro.
"I live in a dangerous neighborhood," the young woman said. "If someone breaks into my home, I want to be able to defend my children."
- Hate crimes -
Sara Winter, a right-wing candidate for the National Assembly, finds it positive that Bolsonaro wants to arm women "so they can defend themselves, increase penalties for rapists and introduce chemical castration."
Bolsonaro himself became a victim of violence during the campaign, when he was stabbed by a leftist sympathizer on September 6 and had to spend the last several weeks convalescing in hospital.
Just before the attack, he had called for "shooting" members of the Workers Party in the state in which he was campaigning.
Brazil is awash with weapons. Not only those of narco-traffickers who cross the porous Bolivian and Colombian borders, but also guns sold on the black market by crooked policemen or soldiers.
Nonetheless, a key Bolsonaro campaign pledge is to loosen gun control. "Guns are tools that can be used to kill or save lives," depending on who's handling them, he said.
Many see Bolsonaro as a kind of tropical Donald Trump but for some analysts the comparison with the US president is chilling, given the levels of Brazil's violence.
Trump's arrival in the White House caused "a considerable rise in hate crimes because people who are behind this kind of act are legitimized by someone like this," said sociologist Glauber Sezerino.
The risk is that the far-right will be emboldened to attack "black, homosexual, transgender or even left-wing supporters," warns Sezerino.
Bolsonaro's pledge to loosen gun laws "could be inspired by the United States, where you can buy small arms at Wall-Mart," said Sezerino.
The far-right leader can also count on a powerful gun lobby in parliament.
- "Hunting season" - (more here)