Buitenland, Politiek

Bolsonaro: a perspective from Brazil

For many, the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil came unexpected. To provide background to the switch from years of left-wing government by the Labour Party (PT) of among others Dilma Roussef and Lula da Silva, Doorbraak interviewed Eduardo Platon.

Eduardo is a Brazilian citizen with global connections. Over the past seventeen years he travelled, lived and worked abroad. He has a master’s degree in Business and Finance, and another one in political philosophy (both from the US). Eduardo divides his time over the private sector, government agencies, political parties and NGOs, meaning he can offer perspective from different angles. Eduardo considers himself a cultural conservative and economic liberal.

The left has created division

Eduardo Platon: The Brazilian political framework is moving forward. Some might think we’re moving backwards, but I see it differently. I see how we are finally dealing with a number of economic, financial, social, cultural, international and environmental issues that we haven’t dealt with for a very long time.

Brazil is a christian country, with about 60% Catholics and 25% Evangelicals. The Brazilian family pays a lot of attention to how politicians behave. That is one of the reasons Bolsonaro received so much public support. When I look at myself, in the middle of all this, I am genuinely happy. For thirty-three years, since the end of the military regime in 1985, we were governed by left-wing leaders. Some of them were more moderate, others more extreme. This country can learn lessons from the smooth handover of power, like countries in Europe and Asia do. We can look at what we’ve achieved over the past thirty years, but we can also criticize and change a few premises.

Michael Domen: You voted for Bolsonaro. Can you give me the most important reasons why you preferred him over other candidates, such as Haddad of PT?

I live in Brazil, I feel the pressure. I feel how people are afraid to go outside, I feel how bad the political system has gotten. We’re talking about security, yes, but also just about the lack of respect people have for each other, how people relate to each other.

The left has created division in our country. Before Lula [the former left-wing president of Brazil, now jailed for corruption, md] this country was not divided between haves and have-nots, between whites and blacks, or the LGBT community. Leftist leaders have introduced this division in society, these differences were never that important before.

Let’s talk security. 63.000 people per year are killed in Brazil. Per year. In Brazil more people are killed than in conflict zones such as Iraq. It is sad to see a country like Brazil, with such potential and wealth, to be governed in the wrong way, in my opinion.

Look at the number of police officers killed, more than anywhere in the world [in 2016 437 police officers were killed in Brazil, compared to 135 in the US, md]. Every country that wants to enforce its laws, needs a smart security strategy. You need resources, training. You need to make sure officers feel safe. If they don’t feel safe, they can’t protect the citizens. Many people defend the criminals, but we don’t defend those who protect us. We need to change that.

Increasing militarisation?

Bolsonaro presented himself as the law and order candidate. He promised, among other things, to allow more private ownership of guns and to give the police more leeway to use lethal violence. The last president, Temer, sent the army to the state of Rio de Janeiro to restore order. Do you see an increasing militarization of policing? Do you see that as a potential problem?

Rio de Janeiro is a failed state. The state has had so many bad governors over the last decades. Governor Pezão was recently arrested. The last three or four governors are either in jail or face the prospect of jail. The corruption within government is incredible. The state has no money for anything, not even to pay its own public servants. Organised crime is taking over society in Rio and infiltrates the government.

I think what happened in Rio was necessary, but it didn’t happen at full capacity. The military intervention only took over the security aspect, to protect assets and citizens. The army did not take over the management of the state, there is no political takeover. I don’t think it was done properly: in a federal intervention you need to be able to take over everything, not just the security aspect.

The intervention runs until the end of this year, so the new president will need to assess if it can continue in its current form, or if they need to take it to the next level.

What do you mean by ‘the next level’?

Considering the seriousness of the situation they will need to see how they can install a system of compliance with the law and security measures.

Let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Bolsonaro and members of his team have expressed admiration for the military regime and indeed defended some of its actions. Some in Brazil, but also the international community, have expressed concern over the combination of admiration for the military regime and the law and order rhetoric. Do you share that concern?

I don’t think we need to worry about democratic backsliding. Brazil during the dictatorship was a very different Brazil from today. We did not have a body of politically engaged citizens, we did not have institutions like the federal police, the legal agencies, …

Bolsonaro has been a politician longer than he ever was in the army, for 25 or so years now. He is a politician, not a soldier. I don’t think we need to worry about democratic backsliding.

He had to debate a lot of left-wing politicians who always expressed themselves negatively about the dictatorship — as the media calls it, we should really call it ‘the time the military was in power’. Bolsonaro defended the good things that happened back then. Brazil faced a choice: choose one particular ideology [communism, md] or fight back and form part of the free world. The military regime created, among others, the public infrastructure we use today.

How Bolsonaro speaks is not necessarily how he will govern. To change things, you have to get the attention, win the rhetorical argument, and you do so by being a little bit more explosive. That doesn’t happen just in Brazil, but around the world: Italy, Austria, the US, …

Political institutional landscape

What is the institutional landscape in Brazil? Which checks and balances exist?

Brazil is a presidential system with a separation of powers. We have a supreme court with eleven judges, most of whom are corrupt (laughs).

How are judges appointed to the supreme court? And for how long?

They are appointed by the president, I believe for life [there is no maximum term length, but a mandatory retirement age of 75, md]. That’s why the Lula ruling had such a big effect [the supreme court confirmed Lula’s conviction of 12 years imprisonment, md]: he received six votes against. It was very close, he lost by only one vote.

The reason he has been convicted is because the army made it clear that Brazil is a country of law and order. General Eduardo Villas Boas, chief of the army, tweeted that the court needed to fulfil its function and that corrupt individuals should not be let off that easily.

Do you not find it worrisome that a military chief threatens the supreme court — even if they are corrupt —  to obtain the judgement the military desires?

I don’t think it was a threat, I think it was a reflection. In every situation you have forces that push and pull in different directions, toward the outcome they desire. In this case, the potential outcomes were whether or not to imprison Lula. In the end it reached the supreme court, after the different levels of the judiciary had already convicted him. All levels of the judiciary agreed that Lula needed to be imprisoned.

The supreme court isn’t in the business of judging, they’re in the business of making deals. That’s why the army said: do your job, you’re not here to make deals. You have to rule according to the law.

I still find it disconcerting that a high-ranking military officer, in a country with a history of military dictatorship, uses his position to influence a supreme court judgement. No military officer should ever find himself in that position.

In a stable country, with a long history of democracy, where the separation of powers functions properly, that would be a fair thing to say.

In a country with so much corruption, from all sides, from all branches of government… I’m glad he stood up and said that. If he hadn’t, Lula would be free now. And maybe even president, who knows.

In your country, a military officer would not be allowed to say such a thing. But in a situation where people have no more faith in the judiciary, in the legislative branch — although we are replacing them right now [because of parliamentary elections, md] — where the executive isn’t in a position to take good decisions because of their connections across the political spectrum… sometimes someone has to do something differently. I’m glad General Eduardo Villas Boas used his soft power wisely.

A solid reputation

Now you’re expressing something I’ve heard before and that I find interesting. There is a great distrust towards the judiciary and the legislative branch, but it seems there’s a lot of faith in the military. Considering how big the Operation Car Wash scandal was: was no one from the military involved?

Not as far as I’ve seen. The media would love it if they could say this colonel or that general was involved in a corruption scandal. Maybe soldiers are just motivated differently? These people — and I know some of them — live like ordinary people, like middle class, they don’t enrich themselves. They don’t become millionaires or billionaires overnight. They are trying to build something good in Brazil. They have that in common. They have a deep appreciation for our sense of citizenship, and they have a lot of respect for our country.

The media never found anything. Maybe they didn’t look hard enough, or maybe they just aren’t as corrupt. I’m sure curious people with the right skills have been looking. If you come across anything, let me know!

The faith in the military seems to be quite broad, not limited to one side of the political spectrum. Is that correct?

I think in 2018 that is true. In 2014 or 2012 maybe it wasn’t. But in 2018, after so many corruption scandals, they have a pretty solid reputation.

The legislative branch is now changing. Out of 513 members of parliament we have replaced almost 200. Both in Congress and the Senate we are seeing many new faces who have no connections to the scandals and the corruption. I think that’s a big change. We’re seeing a Brazilian renovation. It will be interesting to see how for example the power relations between the 81 senators will play out.

In Congress Bolsonaro now has 52 members of parliament, after only the Labour Party at 56. The Labour Party hasn’t disappeared. Brazil has 35 political parties, of which 32 or 33 are represented in Congress. With such fragmentation, everyone is in Congress.

We need to clean up the system, it is so dirty. Good people can’t prevail, cannot succeed in life. You have to do something wrong for your business to flourish. You have to do something illegal. Citizens pay the high taxes the government demands of them, but we don’t get public infrastructure in return, there is nothing available. Where does all that money go?


Do the legislative and judiciary branches have significant checks on the president? Does anyone have the power to rein in the president, should he decide to rule as an authoritarian?

I think we have a growing group of political activists in this country. Brazil also has a big diaspora: about one million Brazilians live in the US, a quarter of a million in Japan. People don’t often think of Brazil as having a big diaspora, but many of us live abroad. And thanks to social media, all these Brazilians across the world are connected. There will be people to witness it if he decides to act like an authoritarian, people abroad as well. That’s the beautiful thing about this globalised world: we see things in real time. If Bolsonaro acted undemocratically, he would be caught in seconds. Someone would take a picture, record his comments.

The left has nothing on him, except his explosive remarks. They never got him to say anything authoritarian. He never said he would get rid of Congress, would not adhere to the constitution. He never said anything authoritarian.

That’s not true. He did say — although a long time ago — that if he were ever elected, he would stage a coup on the first day.

That was over twenty years ago, he was a different man then. Today, he has never said anything authoritarian. You know, he has no filter. But he’s not a racist or a homophobe, like people make him out to be. He is married, has children, is a christian. That’s something many people appreciate about him. He gets a lot of support from the Christians.

I think we’ll be surprised by how non-authoritarian he will be. That will be fun to watch. Now everybody is expecting him to be the bad guy, but when he doesn’t take power, doesn’t act authoritarian, people will realise they were attacking someone that doesn’t really exist.

The ministers he’s selecting for his cabinet are all better prepared than he is. They have had a better education, have better experience. The people in his cabinet are better than he is. That says something about the man behind the politician. If a CEO of a company hires people who are better than him, in terms of knowledge and understanding, more ethical, with high moral values, that says something about that person. That’s what Bolsonaro is doing right now. Look at their biographies, their resumes.

That’s new for Brazil. Before, all that mattered were political connections, backroom deals. Before, the president would never have selected someone credible, an expert in their field. Bolsonaro is selecting people who know what they’re talking about. After thirty-three years!

Tropical Trump? Brazilian Duterte?

Bolsonaro has been called — rather condescendingly — the ‘Trump of the Tropics’. Do you see a connection between the two, beyond rhetoric?

BolsonaroReporters / Photoshot

Bolsonaro visits ‘failed state’ Rio de Janeiro

No, not really. I think Bolsonaro appreciates some of Trump’s achievements. Governing for his own people, for example. There I do see a connection. Secondly, protecting the border. Brazil borders twelve countries in South America. Because of the length of our border, a lot of drugs comes in, people immigrate without any form of verification. Thirdly, we have a shared interest in increasing the budget for defence and homeland security — for example through a bilateral agreement.

President Trump comes from a very different background. First he was a Democrat, then a Republican, then an independent, then a Republican again. Politically there is no line. He’s a business man, in real estate, who’s doing politics for the first time. That’s not the case with Bolsonaro, he’s been in politics for 27 years. That’s where I think the comparison ends.

Well, one more thing: neither is politically correct. They don’t speak to please. They try to deal with issues that have been ignored for a long time.

Do you see a comparison to Duterte in the Philippines? He’s also a professional politician, also a law and order candidate. And maybe he’s also the reason why the international community is worried about Brazil. His law and order agenda — many would argue — has gotten out of hand: police are judge, jury and executioner in some parts of the country. The concern is that many might be killed — as in the Philippines — without due process. Do you see any similarities, and do you share that concern?

That’s a healthy reflection. But right now, we really need law and order. Not tomorrow, yesterday. You know, I lived in the US, I know what it feels like to go out in public and feel safe. You don’t get that feeling here. We need law and order, and first and foremost we need to protect our police officers.

I don’t know much about Duterte, but it seems to me he got angry about how criminals were trying to turn his country into a drug haven. Sometimes, to change things, you need a president who can be a soldier. Then you can have a president who’s a statesman, and someone who’s a bit more sophisticated and can take the country to the next level. But the Philippines were in such a bad position that they needed a soldier. He needs to clean up the country, so they can find someone better later. That’s my reading.

We can’t take security lightly in Brazil. I have two children: one is four and lives in the US with his mom, the other is a baby and lives here. I feel sorry for them, particularly for the one that lives here. They don’t have the freedom and security I experience when I’m travelling in safer countries. Brazil’s mechanism isn’t working and some will have to pay a price to fix it.

Protect police, or criminals?

I don’t approve the killing of people. I don’t think we should kill criminals. We do need to find a way of making our streets safe again, to make our families safe again. But if I have to choose between defending organised crime or the lives of our law enforcement, I know where I stand. These are people [law enforcemen, mdt] I know, they live in the same neighbourhood, they want to keep the country safe.

Security is a broad issue that impacts the economy, tourism, education, health, investments, … If you don’t have a safe country, people won’t visit, trade with you, invest. That’s a big issue. I don’t want Bolsonaro to be seen as the new Duterte, but he will have to get tough.

You’re saying we need to choose between protecting criminals or protecting police, but the choice isn’t always that clear-cut. Police officers aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, or they have to make decisions in extreme circumstances. By expanding their mandate to use lethal violence, the risk of — to use a callous term — ‘collateral damage’ increases. Moreover, criminals do have rights, while they don’t pose a direct threat.

The number of violent criminals in Brazil, who kill people, is ridiculously high. If you then look at the number of prosecutions… the process just doesn’t work. Criminals can escape prosecution so easily because the judiciary is corrupt. Mostly they don’t get caught. The only law and order is a police officer or a soldier putting himself between crime and the citizens.

We do need better training. We need to do capacity building. Maybe the international community can play a role there. Let’s use all the good work that’s been done in Israel, in Chile, in Belgium or the US. Let’s train police officers to be better decision makers. Let’s empower them. But I don’t want to punish them.

In a war zone, lethal violence is sometimes necessary. And the favelas of Rio or the Northeast are war zones. Organised crime has much stronger weapons than the police. They use weapons of war, while the police have something very simple. We need training, and a better legal framework.

We need to change things. When you go to London, you see officers who don’t carry guns. Although maybe things have changed because of terrorism? But there’s such respect for police, because people know there are consequences if you do something to them.

That culture does not exist here. Criminals don’t respect the police, they shoot and kill the police. How do you create a society of law and order if you don’t have that culture in place? Bolsonaro is trying to create that culture, where criminals are afraid to get caught. Where people who don’t respect the law are afraid. That change needs to happen. I’m not the one who’s supposed to be afraid when I walk down the street; I’m an honest citizen, a family man. The bad guys should be afraid when they walk down the street, because they did something wrong. That’s not the case in this country.

Accusations of homophobia

We have to talk about the accusation of homophobia. Bolsonaro has said he would rather have his son die in a car crash than be gay. He has said his children would never be gay because they were raised properly. Historically speaking, Brazil has been fairly liberal with regards to the LGBTQ community: public health services for transgenders, legalisation of same-sex marriage. Is he voicing something that was perhaps more present in Brazilian society than we may have thought?

That’s a good question. I wonder if he really has such strong opinions about these things. The only thing he’s been forceful about is that you shouldn’t expose children to these sorts of things, that would be inappropriate.

Inappropriate according to whom?

According to the parents. According to society, teachers, professionals and psychologists. People don’t feel their children should be exposed to these things from a young age. As a parent you can give your children what you want, but if the majority thinks it’s inappropriate in school, then you shouldn’t do it there.

I’m a parent myself, and I think it’s up to the parents to decide such things. In the end, children go to school to learn maths, physics, biology, Portuguese, English, Dutch, French, whatever.

Bolsonaro has come out strongly against gender ideology in school, ever since it was introduced by Dilma [Rousseff, former president of the Labour Party, Lula’s successor, md]. That’s one of the things we need to change in Brazil: a national plan for this, a national plan for that… we’re almost a centralized economy, as if we were back in Soviet times. There are 27 states in Brazil, not every state needs to be equal. Maybe we’ll have a specific education plan for São Paolo, another for Rio, another for Bahía. We resist this centralist way of thinking, where everything needs to be planned. This generation of Brazilians doesn’t like that.

I’m not saying Bolsonaro is polite, or a sophisticated speaker. He’s not polished, didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge, doesn’t know what to say at the right time. That’s not who he is. He’s a rock. And I’m glad he’s a rock rather than a weak, polished politician. He would suffer then.

If you can have a polished, strong politician, that’s the ideal. But Bolsonaro is no Justin Trudeau. That time will come, we have good people lined up. Remember these names: Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Bragança, Janaína Paschoal, Marcel van Hattem, Romeu Zema, Carlos Bolsonaro, and others.

Melting pot Brazil

Should the LGBTQ community be worried?

No. Brazilians are very tolerant by nature, compared to others. We are a country made up of different nationalities, a little like the US. There are so many people from all over the world living here, all kinds of backgrounds, colours and shapes. People are moving here every day. Maybe one day you will!

There are so many people black people here, so many Japanese as well. Did you know we have the largest Japanese community outside of Japan [there are approximately 1.6 million Brazilians of Japanese descent, md]? We don’t judge people on their sexuality or gender. That’s not how Brazilians think. You have to respect people’s sexual orientation. You have to provide education for all. That’s what we should be spending our time, energy and money on: providing good things for everyone.

Not spending inordinate amounts of time on these sorts of thing like some left-wing people do. Some people talk about nothing else, and it causes so much division. They don’t have the endgame in mind.

The endgame is provide citizens with access to public services, to respect citizens regardless of their convictions. Ordinary citizens, like you and me.

I see your point, but many progressives — including myself — would say we spend so much time talking about and with these groups — and we do! — because throughout history they were not talked about, they were supressed, attacked and prosecuted.

I think that’s a good point to make. I just want to say I love my LGBTQ friends, I love all my friends, regardless what they believe in. And I don’t think the Bolsonaro government will try to make them feel unsafe. Quite the opposite.

If we have a better security policy, where people can go outside at 11 in the evening… people don’t see your sexuality when you walk down the street, they just see a human being. And then crime happens.

Of course, there are exceptions, maybe someone will kill someone as a hate crime. But I think Bolsonaro will help them, those who are a target. The law protects everyone, including the LGBTQ community. That’s how I see it, that’s my hope. If I see something else happening, I will be the first one to speak up. I don’t believe people should be judged because of their sexual orientation, or the colour of their skin, or anything.

I’m saying that from the core of my being. I don’t think his voters would be very happy with that either, the Christian core.

Operation Car Wash

For thirty years Brazilians voted for left-wing parties that promised a social security system. Why did it take thirty years before they changed camps? And why now?

BolsonaroReporters / Photoshot

Bolsonaro supporters celebrate his victory

The political situation and the social troubles had to come to a point where the only option was to change. A point where more of the same had become unbearable.

Our political leaders had become so corrupt. President Lula is in jail, not out of political prosecution, as Brazilian and international media may claim. He was convicted for corruption, based on evidence. And it’s not just Lula himself. All the people around him are either in jail or are facing jail.

Corruption in Brazil had gotten so big. Operation Car Wash is the biggest corruption scandal anywhere in the world. People are losing their jobs, have no access to public services, but kept on relying on the same parties and politicians. It had come to a point where people wanted change. Where people no longer wanted to vote for the same politicians, the same political leaders. People no longer wanted the same ideology that has kept us in this position. In the end left-wing parties lied and did not offer solutions for Brazil’s issues.

People don’t want to depend on tiny contributions from the government. They want the government to get out of the way and let the country flourish. That’s the big change in mind-set of the people right now. What does the average citizen want? Real freedom to develop themselves as citizens and professionals. Our new minister Paulo Guedes [of Economy, md], a liberal with a PhD in economy from the University of Chicago is working on that.

What the people want

Did people really change what they want from government? Or did they keep their expectations but lost their faith in the ‘old guard’ to fulfil those expectations?

That’s a good point. I think it’s a combination of both. People have lost faith. They want something different, are looking for something different. And that ‘something different’ is now being presented in a trustworthy, open, transparent way.

Bolsonaro is challenging the narrative, changing what news channels have been telling for thirty years. These news channels have always told people what the story is. He’s telling the story as it is, he’s not making something up. There’s a layer of manipulation in all these media networks: they tell what they want to tell, not the facts. People got very upset with that.

Traditional and social media

Bolsonaro is side-lining the media. He’s very adept at social media, at WhatsApp. I’d like to push back a little on your claim that he’s telling the story as it is. He’s telling the story as he sees it, certainly, and let’s assume he’s sincere. But there are no checks and balances because he communicates directly with the voters.

I don’t think that’s an issue. He uses both social and traditional media. He does pay more attention to the new media. He knows that those who own the old media want to maintain the status quo. And of course they want to keep the contracts they have with the Brazilian government. These people make half a billion dollars a year to say what the central government wants them to say. That got a lot of people upset.

I think he’ll find more balance between social and traditional media, in his communication style. We’re already seeing media networks adapting; they realise they cannot just tell the story like they want to, but that they have to tell what the Brazilian people want. I think the channels will adapt, and I don’t see why Bolsonaro wouldn’t talk to them then. I think they have to change, or they’ll go bankrupt. And I think he’ll use them again then.


Let’s talk about the environment. Brazil has an incredible biodiversity, many species of fauna and flora. Bolsonaro threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement — although he has now retracted that — which seems difficult to square with his expressed belief in climate change and its potentially catastrophic impact.

I think he was trying to renegotiate Brazil’s position in multilateral organisations.

I don’t see it happening that he’ll change Brazil’s position on climate change dramatically. For example, he probably won’t pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement any time soon. But he might want to put some pressure, he won’t agree 100% with all that’s happening there. He will maybe put forward a couple of issues that are more in line with our priorities. I think Brazil needs to be a leader on this subject, given our interest.

So you think it was mostly political posturing in order to get a better negotiating position?

Partly, yes.

I think he’ll want to make sure if all the agreements Brazil has signed are really to the advantage of Brazil. I don’t think he’s the kind of man who would pull out for no reason. He’ll analyse the trade-offs, the advantages and downsides. And in the end, maybe he’ll say you know what, we won’t do anything right now, leave it as it is.

Indigenous peoples and nature

Bolsonaro received a lot of support from logging and mining companies, in part because he promised to limit the law that protects indigenous lands. How do you square that with protecting biodiversity and environmental protection?

We have to find a way to integrate nature and human society. We can’t choose between protecting nature and economic development, we have to do both. We have to protect nature, biodiversity, natural resources, water, animal, indigenous traditions and heritage, everything. But we also have to find a way to develop our potential. We have to find a balance, and that will be difficult.

Of course the indigenous people deserve to have their lands protected. But they also deserve a good lifestyle. Often they leave the reservations for the city because they don’t find enough income and jobs. They live in poverty. Sometimes they close off federal highways to get a little money. They have no source of income. We have to think about how to involve them in Brazilian society.

Nature and life in balance

It’s just not realistic to close off the Amazon, to not let anyone in or out. Many people go there, international visitors, Brazilians. We have to find a way to develop these regions sustainably and in an integrated fashion. That’s going to be a challenge for the president.

Of course we have to protect indigenous lands, but they also have to live. Life isn’t just about nature, these people need to have the whole package. They have to be Brazilian citizens, not live like someone from the 16th or 17th century. Those days are over, this is the 21st century. We have to give them the means to develop themselves. Don’t look at them like children! We have to give them the means, the culture. Help them get the best from their culture, nature, their lands, their identity. For me that’s the best way.

The middle man

So you are saying their lands should be protected? Because Bolsonaro is proposing to no longer do that. Is it not possible to provide them with education and jobs — for example in ecotourism — without getting rid of those protections?

The problem is that as soon as gold, diamonds or oil, or anything of value, is found, politicians immediately declare the area protected.

How is that to the advantage of the politicians and companies?

When politicians designate an area as ‘indigenous’, they are the ones in control, they can give access. Every deal, everything that happens in those regions, has to go through them. They want to be the middleman.

The goal of protecting indigenous people is noble, but that’s not why politicians are using the law. They want to make it into some sort of public enterprise. Because from then on you need to go through the government system to do anything. You create a public monopoly. You have to get permissions, fill in forms, make requests. It’s a big bureaucracy.

Cui bono?

And it’s not the indigenous people who benefit! Usually they get nothing. They don’t really own the land. The wealth, the resources, the assets, none of that goes to them. When international corporations come here, do you think they negotiate with the indigenous communities? Or with the governors, with corrupt politicians? They negotiate with the political players, and the indigenous community gets some small change.

Conservative island?

Final question. Brazil now has a conservative government, which puts it in a rather exceptional position in South and Central America. Do you see any potential tensions with neighbouring countries?

Brazil has been very passive internationally. The country can help shape global politics, take a  leadership position. When we’re talking about the Amazon, about biodiversity, water management, renewables, agribusiness, start-ups, financial technology, social entrepreneurship, new media, creative economy: we can be leaders. Brazil is a laboratory for the future.

We are not a threat to anyone, and we are not an obstacle to the vision of a free world.

With a conservative government in South America, a conservative government in North America, conservative government in Europe, some traditions and belief systems will get more attention again. Some of the good things we’ve lost over the years will be brought back to attention, will be rediscovered.

Shared interest, shared wealth

In the end, people want to live safe and stable lives, have families. Some might not want children, but we all want to be part of a bigger family, a community, your friends and colleagues. That need to belong is something we have to rediscover. And because of our shared interests we’ll create shared wealth.

The family is the smallest unit of that. People want to belong to something. Conservative governments can contribute to that, can bring back the good things. The point isn’t to stop the wheel of progress, that’s not what it’s about. Let the wheel of progress move forward, but let’s keep the good things. Things we have built over the years, such as mutual respect.

People should feel embraced and safe when they speak. In some communities the conversation has become so abrasive, so libertarian: do whatever you want, whenever you want. In your own fence you can do that, but when you cross your neighbours’ fence, you have a responsibility to act differently. When you have a family, you start paying attention to that. We need a community where everybody feels they have something to contribute and something to gain. The conservative movement doesn’t want to go back in time, but we have lost a few things. That’s why I think a conservative party will arise soon in Brazil.


Note: this interview was conducted in early December 2018, before the inauguration of Bolsonaro as President of Brazil. It was first published on Doorbraak in Dutch (parts 1, 2 and 3). This is the transcript of the original interview.

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Michael Domen

Michael (°1987) is links-progressief en gaat het gesprek met andersdenkenden niet uit de weg.