Sputnik: What are the reasons for Mr. Bolsonaro’s popularity in Brazil? What divisions in Brazilian society are the latest polls revealing?
Angelo Segrillo: The elections are very polarized in Brazil between left and right. Bolsonaro is a former military man, and he also defends the former military dictatorship – the regime that started in 1964 in Brazil and (lasted) until 1985. He didn’t defend the (notion of a) dictatorship for Brazil today; he says today the democracy works fine, but he defends the former military regime, which makes some people worried about his real commitment to democracy. It was kind of a surprise that he became so popular. I think that it has to do a little with the problems that the Brazilian politicians now have with the Workers' Party. The Workers' Party governed Brazil from 2003 until 2016 with Lula and Dilma Rousseff. At the beginning the government of the Workers’ Party was very popular because Lula governed Brazil during an economic boom, when not only the Brazilian economy went well, but also many poor people went up in life and life became better. But in the end, especially during the government of Dilma Rousseff, the economic situation went down, and also there were many corruption scandals. This problem with corruption was very important in the Brazilian society because the Workers Party had come to power on a platform for improving the situation of the poor people and also combating the corruption among the politicians. So, this problem with the corruption scandals was very important in having piqued (sentiment) against the Workers’ Party in many circles of the society; and Bolsonaro is riding on this wave.
Angelo Segrillo: In his political style he is following some of the things that, for example, Trump does in the US; for example, he’s using the expression “fake news” and he’s also quoting Trump in his speeches. I think he is also part of this anti-establishment world movement, but he has his specificities. He doesn’t fit completely well because usually this anti-establishment and anti-globalism wave in the world is against, for example, free trade and not (neo-)liberal economically. Bolsonaro actually had an about face, because he used to be an economic protectionist; he was a military man protecting Brazil and nationalism, but economically he changed his views and he’s actually preaching economic liberalism. He said that the Workers’ Party was more protectionist and he said that Brazil needs to liberalize the laws and make business work more easily. Actually, I think that he did it on purpose because it’s earning him votes from the regular establishment. Some of the regular, traditional politicians that are not against democracy or anything are actually supporting Bolsonaro because of this; he says that he’s going to liberalize the economy. I think that was a very smart move on his part, because he alienated part of his former base when he became a (neo-)liberal, but he gained the support of the business community; even the democratic business community, that is not for the military dictatorship or anything, because of their aversion to the Workers Party is supporting Bolsonaro now in this polarization.
Sputnik: If Mr. Bolsonaro does attain victory, what would the relations between Brazil and the US look like?
Angelo Segrillo: As I told you, he had an about face in his economic program; now he is now supporting (neo-)liberalism. I think that because Trump is in power in the US, and he has a favorable view of Trump, the relations with the United States won't be affected or maybe even improved.
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