Jair Bolsonaro. (About Energy)

Jair Bolsonaro. (About Energy)


Cecilia Tornaghi on Rear Vision: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro

"It seems that he was able to gather this image of being the outsider," said the Americas Quarterly managing editor.

Cecilia Tornaghi, managing editor of Americas Quarterly, spoke to Keri Phillips on ABC Radio National's Rear Vision podcast about Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro. Tornaghi explained that Bolsonaro is from the poorest part of São Paulo, and he grew up in a low-income family during the military dictatorship. She said that military service is mandatory for boys in Brazil, and at 18, Bolsonaro went to a prestigious military academy.

"The military always offered this sort of path into a stable life. But he actually wanted to serve," said Tornaghi. "The reports I’ve read about [Bolsonaro], and interviews is that he had this idea of going into politics. But nobody knew about that at that time…there was no indication that he could ever reach as far as he did." said Tornaghi. 

Tornaghi said that Bolsonaro has joined six or seven political parties throughout his career, and he became known for jumping parties. 

"Always on parties that didn’t have much of a personality…that were more a vessel for politicians, for people to run more than actual ideological or centered parties," she said. "They were always center-right…but his voting record was all over the place. He was supporting things that were supported by the left and the right." Tornaghi explained that Brazil has about 30 political parties in Congress, and 73 others are trying to get registered. "There are a lot of parties that don't really have a very clear ideological position," she said.

"[Bolsonaro] is a very smart politician," said Tornaghi. "It seems that he was able to gather this image of being the outsider; even though he had been in Congress for 27 years, he was never a part of any group."

Tornaghi cited two things that helped Bolsonaro win the 2018 presidential election: Being stabbed at a campaign rally and organizing a strong social media campaign primarily through WhatsApp.

"That stabbing changed the entire dynamic of the race. He was in none of the debates, so none of the other candidates had a chance to face him or try to challenge his positions," said Tornaghi. "[His social media campaign] was really well organized, even if it did rely on a lot of fake news and a lot of crazy posts. It caught on fire and he was able to dominate the whole media and the whole coverage."

Listen to the full episode.