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Charity voices concern over Bolsonaro’s win

02 November 2018


Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his victory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sunday

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro celebrate his victory in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sunday

IT WAS hatred that won the Brazilian presidential election, Christian Aid’s partner in the country, InspirAction, has said.

A spokeswoman for InspirAction said that the far-right victor of Sunday’s run-off election, Jair Bolsonaro, projected hatred towards women, black and gay Brazilians, the environment, human rights, and democracy.

“We express our deep concern about the risk that Bolsonaro’s victory may pose for human rights, civil society, equality, the defence and conservation of the environment, and the very survival of indigenous peoples,” Elena Couceiro, from InspirAction, said. “Every day, we work actively to protect these rights.”

Speaking before Mr Bolsonaro’s win, Sarah Roure, from Christian Aid, said that the charity was working with the National Council of Christian Churches and others to “raise awareness about the danger of Bolsonaro’s victory”.

The expansion of “ultra-conservative discourse” deeply concerns civil-society organisations in Brazil, Ms Roure also said. “That is why we want to reaffirm our commitment to stand with our partners and Brazilian society, while expressing our solidarity with organisations that promote values of tolerance, peace, and social justice.”

Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain and little-known legislator, is a far-right populist nationalist who became famous for anti-LGBT and racist statements. He is also an open admirer of the right-wing military dictatorship in Brazil which ended in 1985.

Before the poll, on Sunday, the Anglican bishops in Brazil signed an open letter urging Christians to “read your Bible in a profound and prayerful way” before voting, and to reject “anti-Christian and anti-democratic proposals” (News, 26 October).

But Mr Bolsonaro, a Roman Catholic, is popular among Christians in Brazil. He has especially courted the growing Evangelical minority, which now makes up about one in four of the population.

The last poll before the election suggested that 61 per cent of Evangelicals were planning to vote for Mr Bolsonaro, compared with 26 per cent for his opponent, Fernando Haddad, from the Workers’ Party.

Two years ago, Mr Haddad was rebaptised in the River Jordan by an Evangelical pastor, and many Christians strongly endorsed his vision of a conservative fightback against the social liberalism of the left-wing Workers’ Party, which has ruled Brazil for most of the past 15 years. Issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and LGBT education in schools have been at the forefront.

Some Evangelical megachurches were pivotal in helping the poorly funded Mr Bolsonaro get his message out to the nation, and many promoted him across their radio, TV, and internet networks. Instead of attending a TV debate with the other candidates earlier this month, Mr Bolsonaro gave an interview from his home to RecordTV, a news channel owned by Brazil’s most famous and influential Evangelical pastor, Edir Macedo.

Another popular Evangelical leader, Silas Malafaia, said that Brazil needed a “macho” such as the right-wing populist, who will take office in January. “[He] will defend all the values and principles of the Christian family.”

But, during the campaign, as Mr Bolsonaro’s momentum grew, there was a powerful backlash and repeated protests and rallies against him. Ms Couceiro echoed many of their concerns, in particular Mr Bolsonaro’s contempt for the environmental movement.

“The ultra-conservative leader has announced that he would withdraw from the Paris agreement to combat climate change, just as Donald Trump has done with the United States,” she said. “But there are also other measures announced by Mr Bolsonaro that endanger the Amazon, indigenous lands, the work of environmental NGOs and the laws of the environment. We can’t afford it.”

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