Trump Praises Brazil’s New Leader, Who Vows to Free His Country From Socialism

By Patrick Goodenough | January 1, 2019 | 5:50pm EST
Newly sworn-in President Jair Bolsonaro is recognized as commander-in-chief of the Brazilian armed forces, during the inauguration in Brasilia on January 1, 2019. (Photo by Bruna Prado/Getty Images)

( – Taking the helm of the world’s fifth largest country on Tuesday, President Jair Bolsonaro pledged to free Brazil from “corruption, crime, economic irresponsibility and ideological submission” and to respect its “Judeo-Christian tradition.”

The 63-year-old former army captain is the most conservative Brazilian leader since the end of military rule in 1985, with outspoken views on issues like socialism, gun control, same-sex marriage, abortion and immigration. Critics have labelled him the “Trump of the Tropics,” and accuse him of homophobia and misogyny.

Bolsonaro, who suffered a stabbing attack while campaigning for the presidency, began his short inaugural address to the Congress in Brasilia by thanking God for being alive. He also thanked doctors whom he said had “worked a miracle” during his hospitalization last September.

A member of Congress for 27 years, Bolsonaro urged his former colleagues to help him to secure the structural reforms that Brazil needs. (Of the last three presidents, one is serving a prison term for corruption and a second was impeached for breaking budget laws and removed from office. Both were socialists.)

In a dig at the country’s left-wing, he held up Brazil’s yellow, green and blue national flag, and quipped, “Our flag will never be red.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the inauguration events. President Trump tweeted his congratulations, saying Bolsonaro had “made a great inauguration speech” and adding, “ the U.S.A. is with you!”

Bolsonaro in a subsequent tweet thanked Trump for his “words of encouragement.”

“Together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people,” he said.

Bolsonaro’s speech in Congress followed a motorcade procession, with he and his wife, Michelle, waving to spectators from a Rolls Royce convertible. After addressing lawmakers, he spoke to a large crowd of supporters outside, promising to free Brazil from socialism, political correctness, and what he called the “bloated state.”

Enacting reforms will likely be difficult given the makeup of the lower house of Congress, where 30 parties are represented in the 513-seat chamber.

Following legislative elections which were held alongside the presidential election in October, Bolsonaro’s conservative party holds the second-largest bloc of seats (52), after the left-wing Workers’ Party (56) – the party of former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now in prison, and Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached and removed in 2016.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro presents visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Brazil’s top award for high-ranking foreign guests, in Rio on Friday, December 28, 2018. (Photo: GPO/Avi Ohayon)

Guests at Tuesday’s events included Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on a first visit by an Israeli leader to a country long viewed as supportive of the Palestinian cause and with strong trading ties with Arab states.

Bolsonaro pledged shortly after his election to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem, and Netanyahu told Jewish leaders in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday that the incoming president had told him the embassy move was a matter of “when, not if.”

Brazil is the world’s fifth-biggest country, both by population (after China, India, the United States and Indonesia) and by land area (after Russia, Canada, the United States and China). Its GDP (purchasing power parity) is the world’s eighth-largest (after China, the U.S., India, Japan, Germany, Russia and Indonesia).

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