MICHAEL FOX: This is Jair Bolsonaro. He has been called the Donald Trump of Brazil. He is one of the countrys most controversial political figures, and hes rising in the polls for the 2018 elections.
JAIR BOLSONARO: Youre going to face an army captain, an extremely strong presidential candidate in 2018. You can be sure of that.
MICHAEL FOX: Under the dictatorship, he served as a captain in the Brazilian military, and hes been a congressional representative for the state of Rio de Janeiro since the early 90s. But mostly, hes been known for his bombastic homophobic, xenophobic, racist and sexist rhetoric.
TALITA TANSCHEIT: He is in the extreme of the right-wing in Brazil. He belongs to a family that was in favor of the dictatorship and even now they are in favor of military intervention in Brazil, and stuff like that, they are in favor of torture. They are against the rights of women, LGBT people, Black people. All of these things together, you put this in a bag and you have Bolsonaro.
MICHAEL FOX: The Intercept published an article about him in 2014 titled The most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world. It highlighted a laundry list of his most egregious remarks, including telling a fellow lawmaker that she didnt deserve to be raped. And that he would rather have his son die in a car accident than be gay.
Hes been fined for his comments. Hes defended the dictatorship, applauded the killing of landless workers, and carries a gun. Hes promised to fight violence with violence.
And his support is growing amid the countrys worst financial recession ever and a massive on-going corruption investigation that has already taken down dozens of top political figures.
PROF. CELI PINTO: The Bolsonaro phenomenon isnt that different from the Trump phenomenon or the Emmanuel Macron phenomenon. You have a crisis in the political system, a rejection of the political system, of the political parties, of the political elites — The Democratic Party with Hillary Clinton — and the appearance of an outsider. And the outsider is someone that doesnt respect the politics. Trump disrespected every possible rule of the political norm in the United States.
MICHAEL FOX: Of course, Bolsonaro is no real estate tycoon. Hes also not new to Brazilian politics. But for most of his career hes been on the fringe far-right, vehemently defending the military, security, and so-called family values.
JAIR BOLSONARO: Were tired of the politically correct. Were tired of disastrous human rights policies.
MICHAEL FOX: Hes admitted to knowing little about the economy, although he supports a neoliberal agenda of lower taxes and free trade.
Over the last 26 years, hes been a member of 7 different minor political parties. The latest, the Social Christian Party, controls less than 3% of the seats in the lower house. But he also belongs to the countrys powerful bullets, beef and bible caucus, uniting large landowners with evangelicals, and a growing gun lobby.
And hes the favorite of the far-right Tea Party-style Brazilian movement that has been organizing over social media and which hit the streets against president Dilma Rousseff in 2015.
TALITA TANSCHEIT: Bolsonaro is dangerous, because he could be elected, not because Brazil has become a fascist country. It could turn into an extremely conservative country, but peoples attraction with Bolsonaro is that he is anti-political, anti-party, anti-corruption, and chauvinistic. He tries to be macho and violent. Bolsonaro is very dangerous, because he could become a very popular leader, particularly if Brazils only other popular leader, Lula, cant run.
MICHAEL FOX: His supporters are fanatical, already calling him a legend.
Hes popular for the same reasons Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. election: He says what he wants to, has backed the use of violence, and hes not afraid to stick it to the traditional political class, or anyone else.
This resonates with a reactionary population that is both fed up with the on-going corruption and disgusted with a decade of Workers Party policies that sought to lift millions out of poverty and fight discrimination of traditionally marginalized communities. Bolsonaro is most popular among the rich.
Former Workers Party president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is leading in the polls for next years elections, but he was recently convicted of corruption. If it is not overturned, he could be barred from running for office. That could open the door for Brazils Donald Trump, who is both loved and despised for the same reasons: His complete disregard for ethics, respect for others, and the status quo.
Could Bolsonaro win the 2018 elections if Lula is forced out?
Many analysts believe so. The question is if Brazils elites, financial sector, and corporate media would allow it. And if grassroots movements on the Left can stop it.