Meet Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right leader and 'Brazilian Donald Trump' who could be the country's next president

Jair BolsonaroJair Bolsonaro, a controversial far-right politician, won the first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday.Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

  • Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician criticized for at-times misogynistic, homophobic, and militaristic views, could become Brazil's next president. 
  • Bolsonaro won the first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday. 
  • He's been dubbed the "Brazilian Donald Trump" and has vowed to make Brazil "great" again. 

Jair Bolsonaro, an incendiary far-right politician criticized for at-times unabashed misogynistic, homophobic, and militaristic views, took a big step this weekend toward becoming Brazil's next president. 

Bolsonaro, a member of the Social Liberal Party who's been dubbed the "Brazilian Donald Trump," won roughly 46% of the vote in the first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday. He was only a few percentage points shy of winning the outright majority necessary to become the next president.

The far-right frontrunner will now face off against a leftist candidate - the Workers Party candidate, Fernando Haddad - in a runoff election on October 28. 

Who is Jair Bolsonaro?

Bolsonaro, a former army captain who's served as a congressman for over 20 years, has a long history of courting controversy and is a deeply divisive figure in Brazilian politics. 

He's frequently come under fire for controversial remarks about gay people, women, and minorities:

  • In 2011, for example, Bolsonaro told Playboy magazine he would "be incapable of loving a homosexual son."
  • "I won't be a hypocrite: I prefer a son to die in an accident than show up with a mustachioed guy. He'd be dead to me anyway," Bolsonaro said.
  • He was also criticized in 2014 after suggesting a female colleague in congress was too ugly to be raped.
  • "She doesn't deserve to be raped, because she's very ugly," Bolsonaro said at the time. "She's not my type. I would never rape her. I'm not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn't rape her because she doesn't deserve it."
  • Bolsonaro also once described Afro-Brazilians as lazy and fat, and he has called refugees from Haiti, Africa, and the Middle East as the "scum of humanity."
  • And back in the early 1990s, he suggested he was in favor of a dictatorship. 
  • Years later, in 2015 he defended the brutal dictatorship that presided over Brazil from 1964 to 1985, which was responsible for numerous atrocities.
  • More recently, Bolsonaro in September suggested his political opponents should be shot. The same week, Bolsonaro was stabbed along the campaign trail, an incident that saw his poll numbers rise

On Monday, Bolsonaro refused to apologize for his controversial rhetoric and said he can't just become the "peace and love candidate."

Bolsonaro's Trump-like rhetoric has made him popular among many Brazilians 

Rampant corruption, an ongoing recession, and rising rates of violent crime have contributed to some Brazilians embracing Bolsonaro and his hardline stances on an array of issues. 

Much like Trump in the US, Bolsonaro has painted a picture of Brazil as a nation in decline. He has pledged to make the largest and most powerful country in South America "great" again by ridding its politics of corruption.

In a live broadcast on Facebook earlier this month, Bolsonaro said, "Let's make Brazil Great! Let's be proud of our homeland once again!" The presidential hopeful's bombastic use of social media is also part of the reason he's been compared to Trump. 

To restore law and order, Bolsonaro has advocated for loosening gun laws and called for bringing back the death penalty. 

He's pushed against environmental regulations, and like Trump is critical of the landmark Paris climate accord. 

Bolsonaro has also called for lowering taxes and privatizing state companies. 

In a country desperate for change, many Brazilians are seemingly attracted to Bolsonaro's radical platform and are unfazed by his controversial rhetoric. 

As Bolsonaro's campaign has gained steam many have compared him to Trump, including his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro. If his father wins, "It's going to be beautiful," Eduardo said.

"It will be just like Trump in the United States," he said at a recent rally.

But, like Trump, Bolsonaro continues to be a polarizing figure.

In late September, thousands upon thousands of women marched in protest of Bolsonaro under the slogan #EleNao, which means "Not Him." The march was similar to the anti-Trump "Women's March" held in the US.


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