American conservatives love Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. They nicknamed him the “Brazilian Trump.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviewed him in Brasilia and dedicated an entire opening monologue in praise of his administration. However, they ignore Bolsonaro’s corrupt authoritarianism, advancement of the leftist agenda, and betrayal of all the 57 million Brazilians who voted for him.
I voted for Bolsonaro in 2018. Although I was skeptical about his authoritarian tendencies and violent rhetoric, I still believed he would fight corruption and make Brazil’s economy freer, making him a better option than his left-wing opponent Fernando Haddad. Today, as the left seems poised to retake power in Brazil, Americans must learn from Bolsonaro’s tenure to avoid perpetuating the same problems here.
When Bolsonaro’s four children, all of whom hold public office, were investigated for corruption, Bolsonaro abandoned his anti-corruption platform: he interfered in federal investigations and ended the most successful anti-corruption operation in Brazil’s history. He appointed a General Federal Prosecutor who refuses to investigate corruption cases and passed the “secret budget” bill, which facilitates the bribing of congressmen. The list goes on and on. To protect his family, Bolsonaro shielded every single corrupt politician in the country.
Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (aka Lula), Brazil’s left-wing president from 2003 to 2011 and current presidential candidate for the far-left Worker’s Party, couldn’t run for president again in 2018 because he was serving a 12-year prison sentence for his involvement in corruption scandals.
In April 2021, the Brazilian Supreme Court annulled Lula’s conviction on a legal technicality. A month later, soft-on-corruption Bolsonaro appointee Justice Kassio Nunes cast the tie-breaking vote to accept the case that would fully restore Lula’s political rights. Therefore, Bolsonaro indirectly freed Lula, a man whose name is synonymous with corruption and who is now his opponent in this year’s election. When questioned about it, Bolsonaro said: “if it’s to free Lula, so be it.”
Bolsonaro has always flirted with authoritarianism. He reinstated commemorations of the 1964 coup that led to two decades of a brutal military dictatorship. He praised convicted torturer Col. Carlos Alberto Ustra, who tortured former President Dilma Rousseff during the dictatorship. Recently, he has threatened to pack the Supreme Court if he wins a second term.
His record is not great on press freedom either. The president has physically assaulted a journalist and attempted to steal his phone. His administration funds multiple pro-government media outlets and personalities.
His son Eduardo, Brazil’s most-voted congressman, even sued Congressman Kim Kataguiri to legally compel him to stop calling him “Eduardo Little Banana.” Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected the suit
Despite Bolsonaro’s important reforms in the first nine months of his presidency, he did very little to reduce the size of Brazil’s enormous bureaucracy. Contrary to his campaign promises, Bolsonaro approved massive government spending bills and breached the spending cap. He didn’t fully privatize any of Brazil’s 202 state-owned companies and created an additional two. He approved a bill providing $1 billion of taxpayer money for politicians’ campaign expenses. Now, Brazil’s “electoral fund” costs more than sanitation.
Bolsonaro is the best thing the Brazilian left could’ve asked for. His pro-impunity policies are protecting dozens of corrupt left-wing politicians from going to jail. Bolsonarist congressmen voted with Lula’s Worker’s Party 349 times. Bolsonaro is advancing their left-wing pro-corruption agenda with no resistance from his supporters. In effect, he is little better than Lula, whose corruption scandals and attacks on civil and economic liberties are so voluminous that I can’t even list them all. Brazil needs a leader, not an aspiring dictator.
American conservatives’ love of Bolsonaro, despite his traits that many conservatives claim to oppose, is indicative of a larger problem: they will blindly follow anyone with an “R” next to their name. Take the victory of Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, in the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Pennsylvania.
For the first 60 years of his life, Dr. Oz supported gun control, promoted Obamacare, and attacked pro-life legislation. A year ago, he conveniently changed his political affiliation in perfect timing to run for Senate. Republicans seem willing to completely ignore Dr. Oz’s record of actively fighting against conservative causes. Now, they vote for him without hesitation because he is a Trump-endorsed Republican. This mentality is how Brazil ended up with a corrupt authoritarian like Bolsonaro.
Whatever the results are, the American conservative media needs to stop conveniently ignoring relevant facts about Bolsonaro. It’s irresponsible for them to champion him as a conservative hero when he’s a corrupt authoritarian who has done little to advance conservative causes and did everything the Brazilian left wanted him to do.
In that vein, I urge American Republicans to stop blindly supporting anybody who claims to be on their side. May Bolsonaro’s example serve as a lesson. Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro not because of his intelligence or integrity but because he promised to fight the left. Four years later, the left is close to coming back to power, and he paved the way for them by continuing their policies — even though he promised not to.
Sam Neves is an independent journalist and the president of the Turning Point USA chapter at Emerson College. After graduation, Sam plans to attend law school and continue the mission to fight for people who don’t have a voice. Sam is also a filmmaker, actor, and comedian who believes humor is the most powerful weapon to fight back against insanity.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.