Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro (R) speaks to Epoch Times
reporter Roman Balmakov at the Conservative Political Action Conference
in Washington, D.C., on March 4, 2023. (Oliver Trey/NTD)
Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro shared his thoughts on leadership, the current political agenda in his country, and the future, in an interview with The Epoch Times at the U.S. Conservative Political Action Conference on March 4.
Discussing plans to return to his native Brazil later this month, Bolsonaro said: “I will once again be the leader of the opposition to the current government.”
When asked whether he fears retaliation from the current administration, Bolsonaro said his country is enduring “uncertain times,” adding he might face action from the judicial branch of the government: “I have not been indicted. There’s nothing against me when it comes to corruption. But, unfortunately, there might be some forceful measure taken against me, which would be completely unfair.”
However, Bolsonaro says many congressmen support him and are against the “communism” and “corruption” of the new administration.
Complaints of government overreach from Brazil’s supreme court have persisted since last year’s presidential election. Residents have reported incidents like canceled social media accounts and threats of arrest for questioning the official results.
Bolsonaro lost a tight election race in 2022 against current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known locally as “Lula.”
The former president’s supporters fiercely contest the election results, which drove Jan. 8 demonstrations at Brazil’s federal buildings in the capital.
Though, according to Bolsonaro, Lula’s win represents more than just a victory for the left. It’s an opportunity for regimes in countries like Venezuela and Iran to expand their reach in the Americas.
White House officials sounded the alarm when two Iranian warships were allowed to dock in Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 26 and were given clearance to stay until March 4. The event occurred despite pressure from the United States to turn the ships away.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Ned Price, said the White House was discussing the situation with its Brazilian partners so Iran can’t “acquire a foothold” in the Americas and “is not able to take advantage of others in our hemisphere.”
But Iranian warships showing up on Brazilian shores didn’t surprise Bolsonaro. He always expected Lula’s government to become “close” to countries with entrenched authoritarian regimes.
Lula began reestablishing ties with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro before he was even sworn into office. In December 2022, Lula announced Brazil would once again have diplomatic ties with Caracas, which Bolsonaro suspended in 2020.
During his former turn at the helm as president, Lula also maintained a close relationship with Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega.
Regarding the arrival of Iran’s navy, Bolsonaro said: “If I were president, these warships would not be there.”
He also maintains that if Brazil doesn’t change its political course by 2026, it will end up in the same downward spiral as Venezuela.
Bolsonaro thinks there’s a chance Lula may not see the end of his term as inflation continues to impact Brazilians and the nation teeters at the edge of a recession. Bolsonaro says people will eventually turn against Lula, noting “there is great unemployment and a lack of investments by private companies.”
Brazil’s unemployment rate surpassed 11 percent between March and December last year. A recent economic report said the South American giant is heading for a slowdown in 2023, with a 2 percent drop in GDP growth due to elevated interest rates and a cooling export market.
Bolsonaro believes this will eventually snowball into overwhelming public anger at Lula’s government. He points to the current economic struggles of other socialist regimes in Latin America like Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as proof.
Despite the cautionary examples, socialist ideals have still gained traction in the younger crowds in places like Canada and the United States. Bolsonaro says it can be “very difficult” to change young minds because years of schooling paint pictures of socialism that don’t match reality.
“Unfortunately, the majority of youth cannot really see what is really obvious,” he said.
But one man alone can’t save Brazil from its current economic and political woes, according to Bolsonaro. He also thinks it’s time to move past the election loss and focus on the future: “Right now, we must think forward. We must bring the people to our side.”