FILE – In this Dec. 4, 2018 file photo, Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro gives a thumbs up as he leaves his transition headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil. Bolsonaro will take office on Jan. 1. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
RIO DE JANEIRO – Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil’s president on promises to overhaul many aspects of Latin America’s largest nation, from changing its international alliances to cracking down on endemic corruption and street crime. Here are five things the far-right leader will likely move to change in the first months of his administration:
Last week, the former army captain said that upon taking office he would issue a decree guaranteeing Brazilians without a criminal history the ability to possess firearms. During the campaign, Bolsonaro argued that one way to confront street crime would be to arm more citizens.
Possession of firearms is currently tightly restricted in Brazil, though drug traffickers and other criminal gangs are heavily armed with automatic weapons. Brazil is the annual world leader in total homicides — more than 63,000 in 2017 — and a majority are from firearms.
Bolsonaro has frequently argued that police who fatally shoot criminals during operations should be decorated, not prosecuted. To that end, he has said they should be shielded from prosecution, possibly by having such cases be investigated in a separate process outside the criminal justice system.
Such ideas terrify human rights groups and people who live in poor neighborhoods, where shootouts between police and traffickers often leave criminals, officers and innocent bystanders dead. Some Brazilian police forces, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, are already among the most lethal in the world.
Bolsonaro has not detailed how he might achieve such a change.
PENSION SYSTEM OVERHAUL
For decades, Brazilian politicians and international economists have advocated revising the pension system, which now allows many public workers to retire in their early 50s and takes up an increasingly large portion of public expenditures. But many attempts, including by outgoing President Michel Temer, have failed.
Bolsonaro has promised this time will be different, though he has been mostly mum on details. His party will have the second largest bloc in Congress, and many politicians across the spectrum agree changes must be made. Still, he will face stiff resistance as his economic team begins rolling out details before Congress convenes in February.
Bolsonaro said during the campaign he would pull Brazil from the Paris agreement on climate change, then backpedaled after winning the election. Whether Brazil, which has the largest chunk of the Amazon basin in South America, formally stays in the accord may be all but irrelevant: Scientists say the country won’t meet its targets on emissions reductions if Bolsonaro does what he has promised.
Those promises are wide ranging: roll back environmental regulations, promote increased mining and farming, cease demarcation of indigenous lands and allow indigenous tribes to sell their lands.
These changes will likely come via various methods, from presidential decrees to privatizations.
Bolsonaro has frequently expressed adoration for U.S. President Donald Trump, and he is poised to follow him in foreign policy. He has promised to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; push back on China, Brazil’s largest foreign investor; ditch regional trade treaties he thinks are bad deals for Brazil; and take a hard line on leftist governments, including that of neighboring Venezuela.
Each one of these changes could present large risks. For example, Middle Eastern countries are some of Brazil’s biggest customers of meats. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem will likely anger many in that region and jeopardize future business. Still, Bolsonaro will come under intense pressure from evangelicals, one of his largest sectors of support, to make good on this promise.
Peter Prengaman on Twitter: twitter.com/peterprengaman