SUNIL
DOWARKASING

Since the last three years, I have been working in Brazil and keeping quiet on the actual situation that was haunting me and I had to come up with these few lines to share the global threat that the victory of Jair Bolsonaro (JB) represents. These are my personal views, which are aligned with those of many of my colleagues.

Brazil, the sixth largest country in the world, just went to the polls recently. JB has ridden a wave of dissatisfaction to win the recent election with a support of 55% of the votes, while his potentially and most popular main contestant is behind the bars. Brazil now has an extreme right former arming cum politician diving this huge economy for the next four years. This is a matter of real concern to all of us for two main reasons that I will elaborate in this article –i) “the shrinking of democracy and the rise of National populism” and “Global warming”. Besides the speeches JB made during the electoral campaign, he has an enthusiasm for torture and the 1964-85 military dictatorships. This retired army captain is famous for racism, homophobia and is an authoritarian who hates the indigenous communities. The question that all observers are asking – Is Brazil back under disguised military governance? The only hope so far is that there are still some unknowns on whether and to what degree the content of his speeches will translate into policies and how fast. There are a lot of uncertainties for sure. However, JB must be conscious of the fact that not everybody voted for him, and voters in Brazil mainly expressed their bitterness against the past regime, which was strangled in corruption cases, the rising rate of crime and insecurity and the 2016 economic recession.  The worrying fact that is rendering experts perplexed is that JB was very clear in his threatening language and speeches about racism, violence and other threats like shrinking of democracy and yet people, to a large extent, supported him. Are people so fed up with certain political regimes and their economic policies that they are ready to dive in such uncertainties? The underlying worrying issue is why a growing number of people around the world are abandoning mainstream liberal democracies for National populism? 

Is Democracy failing?

Brazil, during its history, has been a long dictatorship and after which it embraced socialism with workers’ Party of Lula. Now all the observers are unanimous that the country may undergo an authoritarian rule. During the electoral campaign JB even mentioned that he would never accept defeat in the election and openly stated that the army might agree with his view. This is a clear threat to democracy. He does not believe in the opposition. Despite all these threats he got elected. Why? Is the liberal democracy failing to address the needs of people? Are democracy and the neoliberal policies that it encourages working only for strengthening capitalism and making the elite richer while the inequality gap keeps on widening? Has democracy run out of morality and gained more on corruption? One thing for sure – the actual political systems and political community are not delivering on the expectations of the people and this reminds me of something interesting that I read from a business forum where some famous business people stated – “ People elect government and we tell them what to do” – To an extent, this mirrors well our own society with the addendum that here in Mauritius, not only the business community but the socio-cultural organizations also dictate the political community / leadership what to do. Corporates and corruption are not alien to the failing of democracies around the world. Now that it is clear that Bolsonaro has both the support of the market and the investors; the amazon forest and the largest mangrove plantations in the world are in danger. JB has signified his intention to privatize state companies; it is a clear message that he is all out to be an environmental denier. The other worrying factor is that JB’s embrace of “law and order” carries alarming undertones, as he has expressed a fondness for the country’s past military dictatorship. His anti-democratic views are just one element of his disturbing rhetoric. Is a social collapse in the horizon?

How will the results of this

election affect global warming?

The Amazon makes Brazil unique. Just weeks after which the scientific community warned that the safe natural thresholds for biodiversity would be crossed within the next decade or with some chances in the next 20 years, we now have to face the Amazon threat to deforestation and loss of habitat to a lot of natural species. Amazon forest is world famous and today everybody around the world feels concerned about its future. This forest is the lungs of the planet and is the biggest carbon sink of the world. The planet is about to lose its lungs and you can already guess the outcome on global warming at a time when science through the IPCC 1.5-degree report highlighted the urgency to tackle same. The threat is built on the worrying fact: JB’s political pivot to the powerful lobby of the agricultural sector to which he has promised to open up the amazon forest to land grabbing, even if that needs to chase the Indigenous communities from their land. Every inch of the Amazon forest is vital and crucial for saving the planet from global warming. The fate of the planet today strangely depends on one person and that person is none than JB himself. So sad!