The Brazilian Election as Seen by an American Exchange Student

On Oct. 7 of this year, the country of Brazil held the first round of a major election. The Brazilian people voted to elect their President, Vice President and National Congress, as well as state and vice governors. Three weeks later, Social Liberal Party candidate Jair Bolsonaro and Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad faced off in a second round of voting to see who would become the next president of Brazil. Bolsonaro was declared the winner, receiving over half of the popular vote.

During his campaign, the congressman from Rio de Janeiro was recorded making very racist and misogynistic comments.  These include saying his sons would never date black women because “[my sons] are educated.”



One of my best friends, Lena, is taking an exchange year in Brazil. During the times we’ve talked on FaceTime, she’s told me about the election and how similar it feels to the most recent American presidential election. She agreed to let me interview her on the president-elect of Brazil and his similarities to Donald Trump.


ABBY: What are some of Bolsonaro’s major political stances?

LENA: The two biggest issues he’s been focusing on are corruption and crime, which are also two of the biggest concerns of the general Brazilian population.  Corruption has been plaguing Brazilian politics for years and people are understandably fed up. Bolsonaro presents himself as someone who is not part of the “corrupt establishment.”  He also focuses on “law and order” and wants to relax gun laws as a solution to the high murder rate in Brazil. He’s very socially conservative and opposes legalizing abortion. Bolsonaro has made a number of derogatory remarks towards women, black people, indigenous people and the LGBTQ+ community.


A: Have you noticed any similarities between him and Donald Trump?

L: Many of the things Trump focused on in his campaign are pretty similar to what Bolsonaro focuses on in his.  Bolsonaro paints himself as a political outsider despite the fact that he has been in the legislature for many years.  Like Trump, he talks about “fake news” and makes heavy use of social media to share his beliefs and reach out to people.  His base shares the same fervor as Trump’s base; at rallies, his supporters would lift him up and chant “legend.”


A: Do people in Brazil support Bolsonaro for the same reasons Americans support Trump? (i.e. do they believe he is a man of the people, etc.)

L: I’d say so.  A lot of people support him because they think he’s not a typical corrupt politician.  His main rival, Fernando Haddad, is part of the Workers’ Party, which most people see as the worst of the parties as far as corruption goes.  So Bolsonaro was seen as a refreshing alternative. It’s similar to why some people chose to vote for Trump instead of Clinton. Trump talked a lot about “draining the swamp” and to a lot of people, Clinton was the ultimate swamp creature, so to speak.


A: What is the general opinion of Bolsonaro among people our age (18-22 years old)?

L: To be honest, I’m not really sure.  In the more conservative south, where I am living, the 18-22 age group seems fairly mixed in their feelings about Bolsonaro.  My classmates, who are 16-17 years old, are pretty mixed. I have an exchange student friend who attends university in a big city and her classmates seem pretty opposed to Bolsonaro.  Overall though, from what I can tell, attitudes towards Bolsonaro seem to be more negative among young people as a general group.


A: Has Bolsonaro’s campaign and his recent election into office emboldened any hate groups to come forward?

L: I’m not sure about actual organized hate groups, but I know there’s definitely been incidents of violence against certain marginalized people and critics of Bolsonaro and I’m sure this will only escalate.  Just like after the American election in 2016, people feel emboldened to express their prejudices.


A: What are people doing to fight back?

L: I can’t think of anything very specific.  There’s definitely been protests. I think there will be more resistance once he takes office in January.


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