Brazil’s newly inaugurated President Jair Bolsonaro says his election has freed the country from “socialism and political correctness” and he’s vowed to tackle corruption, crime and economic mismanagement.
Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain turned lawmaker who openly admires Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, promised in his first remarks as president to adhere to democratic norms, after his tirades against the media and political opponents stirred unease.
While investors hope Mr Bolsonaro’s free-market stance will reinvigorate Brazil’s economy, environmentalists and rights groups are worried he will roll back protections for the Amazon rainforest and loosen gun controls in a country that already has the world’s highest number of murders.
“This is the beginning of Brazil’s liberation from socialism, political correctness and a bloated state,” Mr Bolsonaro, 63, said on Tuesday in an address to the nation made after he donned the presidential sash.
But not all on social media agreed.
Brazil's new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, was sworn in today. He wasted no time in fulfilling one of his promises: to move towards stripping native people of their land.
This is a direct attack on indigenous sovereignty and the health of Brazil's forests and environment. https://t.co/noF5EWf3V3
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) January 2, 2019
Mr Bolsonaro was swept to power in October, making him Brazil’s first right-wing president since the dictatorship.
Security was tight for his inauguration.
Some 10,000 police officers and soldiers were deployed on the streets of Brasilia, the capital, as Mr Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle rode in an open-topped Rolls-Royce to Congress.
His voters are impatient for Mr Bolsonaro to make good on promises to tackle graft and violent crime and revive an economy still sputtering after the collapse of a commodities boom led to Brazil’s worst recession on record.
On the economic front, the new leader promised to open foreign markets for Brazil and enact reforms to reduce a yawning budget deficit, putting government accounts on a sustainable path.
Mr Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing-nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly US President Donald Trump.
As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Mr Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.
Backed massively by conservative sectors of Brazil, including Christian evangelical churches, Mr Bolsonaro would block moves to legalise abortion beyond even the current limited exceptions and remove sex education from public schools.
His law-and-order rhetoric and plans to ease gun controls have resonated with many voters, especially in Brazil’s booming farm country.
Mr Bolsonaro’s vow to follow Trump’s example and pull Brazil out of the Paris climate change agreement has worried environmentalists.
So have his plans to build hydro-electric dams in the Amazon and open up to mining the reservations of indigenous peoples, who are seen as the last custodians of the world’s biggest forest.
Brazilian businesses are eager to see Mr Bolsonaro take office and install a team of orthodox economists led by investment banker Paulo Guedes, who has promised quick action in bringing Brazil’s unsustainable budget deficit under control.
Mr Guedes plans to sell as many state companies as possible.
The key measure, however, for reducing the deficit and stopping a dangerous rise of Brazil’s public debt will be the overhaul of the costly social security system.