SÃO PAULO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office on Tuesday amid mounting concerns over the impact that his right-wing government will have on the country’s LGBTI community and other minority groups.
The crowd who attended his inauguration in Brasília, the Brazilian capital, chanted, “The captain is back!” These words startled many observers because they refer to a member of the military, in this case a former Army captain, occupying the country’s highest office, which has only happened in Brazil during dictatorships that came to power after a coup.
So why were Bolsonaro’s supporters chanting?
They bought into his campaign promises: Defend Brazilian family values and fight what he and his supporters call “socialism,” which were things championed by the Worker’s Party that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva found. These include social inclusion, combating poverty and enacting pro-LGBTI laws.
Bolsonaro in his inauguration speech made it perfectly clear that he plans to follow through with his campaign promises.
“Let’s unite the people, value families, respect Judeo-Christian traditions, fight gender ideologies (and preserve) our values,” he said to a cheering crowd.
What is particularly frightening to his opponents, aside from the number of supporters who attended his inauguration, is the fact that people with militarist ideologies seem to be stepping forward to “defend” conservative values after backing a former Army captain as president and Gen. Hamilton Mourão as his vice president.
LGBTI people, Brazilians of African descent who practice non-Judeo-Christian religions were attacked by right-wing Bolsonaro supporters across the country during the presidential election campaign.
Bolsonaro on Wednesday issued an executive order that directed Brazil’s new human rights ministry not to consider LGBTI-specific issues. Bolsonaro’s critics also feel his inaugural speech gave license to Brazilians that they can commit any form of violence and carry weapons.
The Datafolha Institute, a private poling agency, says most Brazilians are against liberalized gun laws; with rich, straight and Bolsonaro supporters the only ones who support them. Gun registrations in Brazil have increased since his election.
The opposition even before Bolsonaro’s election raised other red flags over his decision not to allow some “liberal” journalists to attend his press conferences and public events.
Bolsonaro also never debated former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party during the second round of the presidential election. Bolsonaro had been hospitalized after he was stabbed during a campaign event less than two months before the debate, and he said medical reasons prompted his decision not to face off against Haddad.
The attack also prompted the unprecedented deployment of more than 3,000 police officers, firefighters and members of the military at Bolsonaro’s inauguration. The security measures were similar to those that are seen during presidential inaugurations in the U.S.
Pompeo attends Bolsonaro inauguration
Bolsonaro has been described as the Brazilian version of President Trump because they share many of the same hardline beliefs.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among those who attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration. The two men met in Brasília on Wednesday.
“Secretary Pompeo congratulated President Bolsonaro on his inauguration and reaffirmed the strong U.S.-Brazil partnership; rooted in our shared commitment to democracy, education, prosperity, security and human rights,” said the U.S. State Department in a press release. “The two leaders discussed opportunities to strengthen cooperation on bilateral and regional challenges, including combating transnational crime and reinforcing democratic governance and human rights in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.”
“They also discussed further strengthening economic ties and trade to increase prosperity for citizens in both our countries and in the entire region, including through promoting transparency and good governance for investment in the region,” added the press release.
Trump also congratulated Bolsonaro on Twitter, saying the U.S. “is with Bolsonaro.” Bolsonaro, for his part, responded by saying, “together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people.”
Agence France-Presse last week reported Trump has already invited Bolsonaro to visit the U.S.
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this article.