Utah State University

Donald Trump’s Negative Example is Trending with Jair Bolsonaro by Austin Anderson

Denouncing reporter’s statements as “fake news”, moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pulling out of the Paris Accords, a political battle against Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro, (Lopes)  and a tough on China proposition. 

            To most Americans, when they see these statements, they would most likely think of one person, Donald Trump.  What most don’t know is that these statements are also true for the new Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is leading a trend based on un-democratic notions across the world.  Bolsonaro wants to use his far-right ideals to follow in Trumps footsteps by making Brazil Great Again.

            From those examples, we can already see that there are large similarities between these two political figures which enact pride to their supporters.  How Boslonaro has been influenced by Donald Trump?  Whether it be his heavy hand against immigration or the economic change Bolsonaro wants to improve Brazil’s wealth, but I think that Trump had a large effect on Bolsonaro just by getting elected.

            Trump had a campaign that was different from the norm in American politics.  He ran as an outsider to the politics.  He ran stating that he needed to run in order to rebuild the country, as if somehow those previously in power corrupted it.  He also stated that we are transferring the power from Washington back to the people as if it wasn’t already a democracy, by the people for the people.  With Trump being a political outsider by not coming from a traditional political background and winning, this gave the inspiration and motive for Bolsonaro.

            Jair Bolsonaro is an ex-military captain and has been a congressman for 27 years.  He is considered to be a political outsider like Trump, Giuseppe Conte in Italy, and Victor Orbán in Hungary.  Bolsonaro is an anti-establishment political figure which largely pushed his ideals after Operation Car Wash.  Operation Car Wash was a large embezzlement scandal of more than $10 billion in government funds linked to over 80 government officials, including congressmen and supreme court judges.  In 2016 Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, was impeached for illegal movement of funds.  With both of these situations happening within 2 years of his running for office, it led the pathway for his outsider, anti-establishment rhetoric to lay hold of the voters.

             Jair Bolsonaro had everything in the bag.  He had the populist and political outsider example of Trump to know that he truly had the possibility of winning in a large, highly developed country.  With that same example, he knew that he did not need to follow traditional democratic ideals. He had large corruption scandals happening which just empowered his anti-corruption and anti-elitism rhetoric.  Corruption had been in Brazil’s history for a long time, so having the knowledge that he could win as a political outsider was that edge that he needed against his opponents.

            Seeing this populist movement and the loss of so many officials due to corruption, this could lead to the destruction of democracy within Brazil and Trump is just an example to fuel the fire.  Since Trump has remained as President, starting in 2016 and continuing through 2018, the United States was dropped in democratic category to be a flawed democracy for the first time ever.  According to the democracy index, it continued to drop in 2018.  In a recent conference with Trump and Bolsonaro, Trump stated that the countries may be in better relations now due to the friendship between Trump and Bolsonaro.  Trump, by being elected has been the front running image of non-democratic ideals and working against the system.  If our democracy is dropping due to Trump and now having great relations with Brazil, we can only imagine what will happen to Brazil’s democracy with a more radical president than Trump, Jair Bolsonaro.

Photo by Chris Kleponis, Creative Commons Zero license


  1. Roberto Cordova

    May 2, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    First and foremost, great post! Very insightful and interesting comparisons. Particularly, I liked the way you mentioned operation Car Wash as a means of facilitating Bolsanaro’s rise. It seems that the impact of this scandal has greatly weakened both Brazilian institutions as well as the people’s belief in them. As a result, it may be easier for Bolsanaro to erode Brazilian democracy than it would be for Trump to erode America’s. Especially considering his favorable comments on dictatorship. Perhaps one could argue that Bolsanaro is more than simply a mirror to Trump, but rather a further exaggeration of his eroding qualities in an environment that allows them to thrive more easily. In that sense, he certainly represents a great danger to Brazilian democracy.

  2. Riham Amin

    May 7, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Great post! It is important to note that Brazil has long been aware of the global west’s political and socioeconomic trends since before Bolsonaro. During the industrial age, encouraged by the rest of the world, Brazil promoted European immigration to “whiten” its population as well as build an industrial economy shaped by the same standards as Europe and America. Now, as more western powers fall to the hands of populists, it makes sense that Brazil follows the trend. Bolsonaro seems to hold the same charismatic charms as Trump that draw in supporters who find a lack of restraint in political correctness appealing. Bolsonaro has proudly declared himself a homophobe while at the same time claiming he has nothing against homosexuals. They are also both politicians who claim to be separate from the system yet have worked within them for years. Trump has the shield of having been a business mogul, but does not advertise the large tax cuts he benefits from or the protections of his international business investments. Bolsonaro though, has maintained his position as one of the people while sitting as a congressman for nearly 30 years. The strengthening ties between the United States and Brazil don’t seem to be between the whole of each country’s people, rather it is a connection between white nationalists who now have presidential platforms.

  3. Luis Sierra

    May 7, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Superb post friend, having previously covered the topic of Bolsonaro’s presidency I find the information you provided very well detailed especially with regards to the populist tactics he has used to strengthen his power in the country. What most interests me about this post is how Bolsonaro continuously blames past Presidents and political corruption for the problems in his country, masking his own authoritarianism. Corruption has always been an issue in the country and Bolsonaro has taken advantage of the people’s lack of trust in government to rise to President yet will he truly be any diffrent than his predecessors? Already his sons have risen in the Brazilian political sphere gaining support from their father and shaping politics in the country. Could Bolsonaro’s trust of his family members and their stellar rise in politics prove to be corrupt moves, could he abuse his office to help aide his families political aspirations? At this point, it is difficult to point fingers but it is worrying to see the country’s politicals begun to fall under the control of Bolsonaro and his conservative sons

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