With barely 10 weeks left until Brazil’s general elections, voters in Latin America’s largest country are seething with anger, frustration and disappointment. Many, perhaps most, have lost faith in democracy, in politicians, and in traditional governing parties. Prominent figures are warning of revolution; talk of a military coup is even in the air. Uncertainty leads the polls.
Brazil is caught in what may just be the world’s biggest ever corruption scandal, while the economy is struggling to pull out of a deep recession and its most popular politician, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is in prison. In the midst of this toxic brew, Brazilians are about to choose a new president and, not surprisingly, their choices include extremists. The most notable among them is a far-right candidate with transparently authoritarian tendencies, Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman and former army captain who some are calling the “Trump of the tropics.”
Bolsonaro, who formally registered as a candidate on Sunday, is in first place in opinion surveys, but his support is well below the majority required for a first-round victory. Still, the sharp rise of such a controversial figure underscores the depth of Brazil’s political turmoil.