Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been sworn into office.
Bolsonaro’s inauguration as the 42nd president of Brazil took place in the capital Brazilia on Tuesday (1 January).
His swearing in comes at a time when many LGBTI Brazilians are expressing serious concerns about what Bolsonaro’s presidency could mean for their rights and safety.
In his inaugural address, Bolsonaro hailed Brazil’s ‘liberation from socialism, inverted values, the bloated state, and political correctness’ in front of the 100,000-strong crowd, the Guardian reports.
The new president also alluded to his campaign promises, such as relaxing gun control laws and taking a hardline stance on law an order, adding that ‘[Brazilians] have a unique opportunity to rebuild our country’.
‘The U.S.A. is with you!’, tweeted US President Donald Trump
Among the guests attending Bolsonaro’s inauguration were Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
US President Donald Trump sent his congratulations to Bolsonaro via Twitter, writing: ‘Congratulations to President @JairBolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech – the U.S.A. is with you!’
Bolsonaro replied to Trump by tweeting: ‘Dear Mr. President @realDonalTrump, I truly appreciate your words of encouragement. Together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people!’
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) January 1, 2019
Bolsonaro has expressed admiration for Trump in the past. Some commentators have gone so far as to label the new Brazilian leader as the ‘Trump of the tropics’, saying that the Bolsonaro’s outspokenness and populist rhetoric mirror those of his American counterpart.
Far-right politics and authoritarian rhetoric
Bolsonaro was elected president by a substantial margin in the October 2018 elections, defeating his rival center-left rival, Fernando Haddad.
The right-wing candidate stood on platforms such as combating corruption and bureaucracy in Brazil’s politics, clamping down on violent crime, and restoring traditional Christian family values.
However, numerous people – both in and outside of Brazil – have expressed alarm at Bolsonaro’s far-right politics and authoritarian rhetoric.
This includes many LGBTI Brazilians who say they are fearful for their rights and safety under the rule of the openly homophobic Bolsonaro.
Brazil has seen a spate of same-sex weddings in recent weeks, as same-sex couples rushed to marry before Bolsonaro took office.
Though same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013, many LGBTI people worry that Bolsonaro might begin rescinding LGBTI rights during his presidency.
A history of anti-LGBTI sentiment
He infamously said ‘Yes, I’m homophobic – and very proud of it’, has suggested that if parents see their son ‘acting a little bit gay’ they should beat him ‘to make him normal’, and that if he saw a gay couple on the street he would ‘whack them’.
During Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign, Brazil experienced a spike in homophobic and transphobic violence, with 2018 on record as one of the deadliest years for the country’s LGBTI community.
Some instances of homophobia were directly related to Bolsonaro’s campaign, such as fans of soccer club Atlético Mineiro chanting that Bolsonaro will ‘kill the queers’ in September.
The former army captain has also expressed admiration for Brazil’s military junta, which ruled from 1964 to 1985. Thousands of people were detained, tortured and executed during this time.
Rights groups have expressed serious concerns that Brazil could experience a new age of authoritarianism under his presidency.