Monday, January 7, 2019

Brazil's Primal Scream for Freedom

From Mary Anastasia O'Grady, at WSJ, "Brazil's Primal Scream":

In the days after Jair Bolsonaro won the October runoff contest to become president-elect of Brazil, I received some notable mail from supporters offended by the negative media coverage of their choice for a new chief executive.

A letter from a man in São Paulo, who described himself as “a gay person,” read: For the “first time in my life I voted [with conviction] . . . on both the first and the second round. I woke up 6AM on two cold Sundays happily doing it. I voted for Bolsonaro emotionally and with gratitude in my heart.”

Behind the emotion there was reason. This is “the first time a government [will provide] freedom of market and freedom of choice to us. . . . By that I mean understanding that’s what people want and realizing that’s what will drive the economic direction in this new administration.”

On Tuesday the center-right Mr. Bolsonaro became Brazil’s 36th president. As I read inauguration coverage here in the south of the country I wondered if the new president grasps the soaring expectations he has created. Brazil has let go a primal scream for freedom.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s critics claim that his “right wing” views, shaped by his experience in the military, will put Brazil’s liberal democracy at risk. In the lead-up to the vote, this media hysteria reached a fevered pitch.

It hasn’t diminished. But it has lost its force, in part because it has exposed the bias of the chattering classes, at home and abroad. Brazilians rightly ask where these champions of democracy were when the Workers’ Party governments of former Presidents Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and Dilma Rousseff were financing the Cuban military dictatorship and its satellite Venezuela.

Brazil’s institutions have matured in the 30-plus years since the end of its own military government. This has been a democratic process, driven by civil society’s thirst for pluralism, tolerance and self-government.

The judiciary and federal law enforcement are increasingly independent. Proof of progress is the federal investigation dubbed Operation Car Wash, which exposed the corruption of a range of powerful business executives and high-ranking politicians in a landmark bribery case. So blind was Lady Justice that even the popular Mr. da Silva couldn’t escape responsibility for his role in the scheme. He’s now in jail.

The same institutions are more than likely to check a power-hungry president on the right. It won’t take as long either. The establishment fawned over Lula. Mr. Bolsonaro will be on a short leash.

The legitimate concern is whether the new president can deliver on his promises to better protect human life and to shrink a monster state that devours dreams.

The São Paulo letter-writer put it bluntly: “Socialism just didn’t work out around here.” Another letter came from a man in Europe who had emigrated seven years ago because Brazil was a dead end.
Still more.