World

Who is Jair Bolsonaro?

Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right populist who served as president of Brazil until he was unseated by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in October, upended political norms when he was elected in 2018.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s broadsides against women, gay people, Brazilians of color and even democracy — “Let’s go straight to the dictatorship,” he once said — made him so polarizing that he initially struggled to find a running mate.

But his campaign, full of angry tirades against corruption and violence that largely matched the national mood, appealed to the millions who voted him into power. While his rivals were more conventional, Mr. Bolsonaro, now 67, channeled the wrath and exasperation many Brazilians felt over rising crime and unemployment — problems that they increasingly believed the corrupt governing class was powerless to tackle.

His incendiary remarks over the years and throughout the campaign cast him as a political disrupter, similar to Donald J. Trump in the United States.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bolsonaro, who served in the military before entering politics, methodically questioned and criticized the security of Brazil’s electronic voting system, despite the lack of credible evidence of a problem, and attacked mainstream news outlets as dishonest.

Since Brazil began using electronic voting machines in 1996, there has been no evidence that they have been used for fraud. Instead, the machines helped eliminate the fraud that once afflicted Brazil’s elections in the age of paper ballots.

But those facts have not mattered much to Mr. Bolsonaro or his supporters, who have instead focused their attention on a series of anecdotal apparent abnormalities in the voting process and results, as well as many conspiracy theories.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolsonaro spent much of his administration warning that the establishment was plotting against him. Mr. Trump railed against the “deep state,” while Mr. Bolsonaro accused some of the judges who oversee Brazil’s Supreme Court and the country’s electoral court of trying to rig the election.

By the end of Mr. Bolsonaro’s term, it was clear that his attacks had had an effect: Much of Brazil’s electorate seemed to have lost faith in the integrity of their nation’s elections.

Ernesto Londoño and Manuela Andreoni contributed reporting.

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