Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro

The presidency of Jair Bolsonaro started on 1 January 2019.[2] He was elected the 38th president of Brazil on 28 October 2018 by obtaining 55.1% of the valid votes in the 2018 Brazilian general election, defeating Fernando Haddad.[3]

Jair Bolsonaro em 24 de abril de 2019 (1).jpg
Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro
1 January 2019 – present
PresidentJair Bolsonaro
CabinetSee list
PartyNo party[1]
SeatPalácio da Alvorada
Michel Temer •
Coat of arms of Brazil.svg
Coat of arms of Brazil
Official website


The president-elect Bolsonaro meets president Michel Temer
Then President-elect Bolsonaro attending the congressional celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Constitution in 2018

Bolsonaro, at the time of his election, was a 27-year member of Congress; his victory has been credited to voter anger at the political class over years of corruption in politics, economic recession, and a surge in violent crime.[4] According to sociologist Clara Araújo, “the dissatisfaction over the economic crisis, it seems to me, was channeled along with a discourse about conservative morals”.[5] The economy of Brazil is recovering from crisis, with an unemployment rate of 12 percent at the time of the election, double that of five years prior. The crisis was caused by, among other factors, weak commodity prices; events revealed underlying weaknesses in the economy, which include poor infrastructure, excessive bureaucracy, an inefficient tax system, and corruption.[6]

Cabinet and appointmentsEdit

On 11 October 2018, days before his election victory, Bolsonaro had already announced DEM congressman Onyx Lorenzoni as the future Chief of Staff in his cabinet.[7] On 31 October, President-elect Bolsonaro announced astronaut Marcos Pontes as the future Minister of Science and Technology; as of that date, he had already confirmed two other ministerial nominations: Paulo Guedes as Economy minister, and Augusto Heleno as Defense minister.[8] However, on 7 November, Augusto Heleno was appointed to the Institutional Security Office of Brazil.[9] On the first day of November, Bolsonaro confirmed that anti-graft judge Sérgio Moro had accepted his invitation to serve as Justice minister. The decision drew backlash from the international press because Moro had convicted Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro's chief political rival in the election, for money laundering and corruption.[10][11]

On 11 November 2018, O Estado de S. Paulo released a story stating that Bolsonaro's team has chosen World Bank director and former Finance minister Joaquim Levy to head the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).[12] A report was later issued by Folha de S. Paulo that Bolsonaro has yet to confirm the nomination of Levy to the post.[13] A press release from Paulo Guedes's team, released the next day, confirmed Levy's appointment.[14] On 15 November 2018, economist Roberto Campos Neto was named as the future Central Bank governor.[15]

In December 2018 the final composition has emerged after weeks of announcements and appointments. The cabinet will include 22 personnel, of which 16 are ministers, two are cabinet-level positions and four are secretaries directly linked to the presidency.[16] The 22 figure is down from 29 in the outgoing administration. Seven of the ministers will be military men, eight have technocrat profiles, and seven are politicians. Hindustan Times commented that "there are just two women in Bolsonaro’s government, which is double the number in the outgoing lineup under President Michel Temer", and that "there are no blacks, despite half of Brazil’s population being at least partly descended from Africans.[17]

Alvim's 16 January speech

In January 2020, Roberto Alvim who was Special Secretary for Culture under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism,[18] only to be fired on January 17, 2020 after appearing to quote a speech by German Nazi politician Joseph Goebbels in a government-sanctioned video.[19][20]

The Bolsonaro cabinet on Inauguration Day, 1 January 2019

On 18 June 2020, Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub stepped back.[21]

Domestic policyEdit

Logo of the Bolsonaro administration. "Beloved homeland, Brazil".

In one of his first actions as president, Bolsonaro increased the minimum wage from R$954 to R$998. Within days of assuming office, Bolsonaro transferred land reform duties from the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) to the Ministry of Agriculture. Most of the remaining duties previously assigned to FUNAI are now part of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.[22]


Official rates of violence in the country have been falling as a result of toughening laws, increasing police powers and implementing anti-violence programs. In the first 11 months of the first year of government, the murder rate fell 22.3%, attempted murder fell 9.5%, personal injury followed by death 3.5% and rape cases fell 10.9%. All other robbery and theft rates fell above 20% on average.[23][24][25]

Gun policyEdit

President Bolsonaro issued a decree to facilitate gun ownership in Brazil on 15 January 2019. The decree, signed by Bolsonaro in an event at Planalto Palace, extends valid ownership period from five to ten years and allows citizens to own up to four firearms. The decree loosens restrictions for gun possession but does not affect those for gun carry. In order to own a firearm, a citizen will have to provide proof of the "existence of a safe or a secure location for storage" of the weapon at home. Requirements for possession such as passing training courses and background checks remain, as does the minimum age requirement of 25 years.[26]


In May 2019, the government cut 30% of the education budget for three universities due to alleged issues with partisan activities.[27] President Bolsonaro has supported the Escola sem Partido (ESP), which encourages students to film teachers to collect evidence for its allegation that the education system is dominated by progressive parties.[27] Students protested the education cuts in Rio de Janeiro.[28]


According to a report by the National Institute for Space Research the deforestation of the rainforests in Brazil has more than doubled within Bolsonaros presidency.[29][30] Bolsonaro called the publication a lie and fired the institute's director, Ricardo Galvão.[31][32]

During August 2019, a record number of wildfires were recorded in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil as a result of the increased deforestation rate. Bolsonaro blamed this on NGOs attempting to embarrass the Brazilian government.[33]


In October 2019, Bolsonaro said that Brazil has stopped taking care of the Defense area, and needs to rearm. He also said that "Brazil needs new armaments", and that "nobody wants an extremely bellicose Brazil", but that the country "needs to have the least deterrent power".[34][35]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Bolsonaro dismissed the threat of COVID-19, saying that it was a "little flu". Soon his justice minister Sergio Moro, resigned.[36] A leading medical journal, The Lancet has dubbed Bolsonaro as the biggest threat to Brazil amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It said that Bolsonaro's disregard for and flouting of lockdown measures were sowing confusion in the Brazilian society.[37] Bolsonaro has attacked lockdown measures implemented by some of the governors of Brazilian provinces. His health minister Nelson Teich resigned after serving only a month. Bolsonaro has also actively participated in anti-lockdown rallies.[38]

Brazil's health ministry hid from public view months of data on COVID-19 on 6 June, and stopped giving total counts of confirmed cases (above 672,000, second only to the United States) and deaths (more than 35,000). “The cumulative data ... does not reflect the moment the country is in,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.[39]

On 7 July, Bolsonaro announced that he had tested positive.[40]

Foreign policyEdit

Bolsonaro with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, Washington, 19 March 2019

Foreign Affairs minister Ernesto Araújo had outlined five measures for the first 100 days of the Bolsonaro administration. The first two were official state visits of President Bolsonaro to the United States and Israel; the third was revising Mercosur policies; the fourth was restoring the coat of arms to the cover of the Brazilian passport; and the fifth was ending visa requirements for U.S. and Canadian citizens.[41]

During the 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro said he would make considerable changes to Brazil's foreign relations, saying that the "Itamaraty needs to be in service of the values that were always associated with the Brazilian people". He also said that the country should stop "praising dictators" and attacking democracies, such as the United States, Israel and Italy.[42] In early 2018, he affirmed that his "trip to the five democratic countries the United States, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan showed who we will be and we would like to join good people". Bolsonaro has shown distrust towards China throughout the presidential campaign claiming they "[want to] buy Brazil,”[43][44][45][46] although Brazil recorded a US$20 billion trade surplus with China in 2018, and China is only the 13th largest source of foreign direct investment into Brazil.[47] Bolsonaro said he wishes to continue to have business with the Chinese but he also said that Brazil should "make better [economic] deals" with other countries, with no "ideological agenda" behind it.[48] His stance towards China has also been interpreted by some as an attempt to curry favor the Trump administration to garner concessions from the US.[49] Bolsonaro said that his first international trip as president will be to Israel.[50] Bolsonaro also said that the State of Palestine "is not a country, so there should be no embassy here", adding that "you don't negotiate with terrorists."[50] The announcement was warmly received by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed Bolsonaro to Israel in March 2019 during the final weeks of a re-election campaign,[51] but was met with condemnation from the Arab League, which warned Bolsonaro it could damage diplomatic ties.[52]."I love Israel," Bolsonaro said in Hebrew at a welcoming ceremony, with Netanyahu at his side, at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport.[53]

Argentine President Mauricio Macri with Bolsonaro on January 16, 2019.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri was the first foreign leader to be received by Bolsonaro on a state visit to Brasília since he assumed the Brazilian presidency.[54] Bolsonaro praised Macri for ending the 12-years rule of Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, which he saw as similar to Lula and Rousseff. Although he does not have plans of leaving the Mercosur, he criticized that it gave priority to ideological issues instead of economic ones.[55] A staunch anti-communist, Bolsonaro has condemned Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro and the current regime in that island.[56][57]

Bolsonaro with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, 31 March 2019

Bolsonaro has also praised U.S. President Donald Trump and his foreign policy.[42] Bolsonaro's son Eduardo has indicated that Brazil should distance itself from Iran, sever ties with Nicolás Maduro's government in Venezuela and relocate Brazil's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.[58] Bolsonaro is widely considered to be the most pro-American candidate in Brazil since the 1980s. PSL members have said that if elected, he will dramatically improve relations between the United States and Brazil. During an October 2017 campaign rally in Miami, he saluted the American flag and led chants of "USA! USA!" to a large crowd.[59] U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton praised Bolsonaro as a 'like-minded' partner and said his victory was a "positive sign" for Latin America.[60]

Bolsonaro praised Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, saying that he had learned from Churchill: "Patriotism, love for your fatherland, respect for your flag – something that has been lost over the last few years here in Brazil ... and governing through example, especially at that difficult moment of the Second World War."[56] Bolsonaro said he's open to the possibility of hosting a U.S. military base in Brazil to counter Russian influence in the region.[61]

With the intention of the U.S. President Donald Trump to make Brazil a NATO member in March 2019, Bolsonaro said: "the discussions with the United States will begin in the coming months".[62][63][64][65] After protests for over his use of "homophobic, racist and misogynist remarks", a ceremony hosted by Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce and set to award United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Bolsonaro with person of the year awards for "fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States" was cancelled.[66]


Bolsonaro speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019

On January 8, 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo asked diplomats to inform the UN that Brazil had withdrawn from the Global Compact for Migration.[67]


The Bolsonaro administration declared on 12 January 2019 that it recognizes Juan Guaidó, the acting president of Venezuela appointed by the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela amidst the Venezuelan presidential crisis.[68]

Free tradeEdit

Bolsonaro supported the European Union–Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, which would form one of the world's largest free trade areas.[69]

2019 investigationsEdit

Of the new ministers announced, five are or were subjected to investigation: Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Tereza Cristina, Onyx Lorenzoni, Paulo Guedes and Marcos Pontes.[70] Onyx Lorenzoni, the Chief of Staff, is suspected of receiving an undeclared amount of R$100,000 in campaign donations in 2012 and 2014, the latter of which he confessed to.[71] Tereza Cristina, the minister of Agriculture, is accused of having benefited JBS in a process of land leasing while she was Secretary of State for Agrarian Development and Production of Mato Grosso do Sul. Cristina has defended her actions as "acting in accordance with government policy".[72] Economy minister Paulo Guedes is under investigation by the Federal Police for allegations that he mismanaged public pension funds.[73] Science and Technology minister Marcos Pontes was investigated by military prosecutors in 2007 for supposedly making commercial use of his public image before entering the military reserve, which is forbidden according to the Military Penal Code. Pontes denied wrongdoing, stating that "there is nothing irregular in my professional activities".[74] Health minister Mandetta is being probed for alleged procurement fraud, influence peddling and undeclared campaign donations.[75]

After allegations of campaign-finance fraud, Bolsonaro fired Gustavo Bebianno, a top adviser and general secretary for the president. His party was accused of diverting public campaign funds to candidates that did not run for office.[76] Bebianno claimed to have formal documentation for all the funds he requested at direction by the State.[77] In July 2019, it was reported that Bolsonaro and other cabinet members were the targets of a cellphone hacking operation to expose corruption in high-profile trials.[78]

2020 political crisisEdit

Investigations continued in 2020. In April 2020 justice minister Sergio Moro resigned, alleging that Bolsonaro was improperly pressuring him to remove the federal police chief; Bolsonaro subsequently removed and replaced the chief with a family friend of Bolsonaro.[79] Police executed search warrants against key Bolsonaro supporters in May 2020 on charges of libel and intimidation, prompting Bolsonaro, while wearing a tie decorated with images of assault rifles, to exclaim "This is fucking over." Bolsonaro attended protests in 2020 that The Guardian characterized as "anti-democratic protests where demonstrators have called for congress and the supreme court to be closed or even torched." On 30 May 2020 prominent Bolsonaro opponents, across the political spectrum, expressed unity against Bolsonaro and launched the Movimento Estamos Juntos ("We Are Together Movement").[80] Lower-house speaker Rodrigo Maia publicly mulled a future impeachment of Bolsonaro "at the appropriate time", but stated that for now the priority was to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.[81]


According to a survey by Ibope, released by the National Confederation of Industry on 13 December 2018, 75% of Brazilian population thought that Bolsonaro was "on the right way", while 14% thought Bolsonaro was "on the wrong way" and another 11%, did not respond. On 23 December 2018, Folha de São Paulo published a survey of Datafolha in which 65% of respondents said that the Bolsonaro's government would be a high increase in the improvement of the Brazilian economy, while 6% said that it would be a high worsening in the current economic situation of the country and another 29%, did not respond. This was the highest rate of optimism regarding the future of the economy since 1997, when Fernando Henrique Cardoso was re-elected president.[82]

Another Datafolha survey, published on 1 January 2019, showed that 65% of respondents believe the Bolsonaro administration will be "great or good"; 17% believe it will be "regular", 12% believe it will be "bad or awful", while 6% did not respond. This rate of optimism regarding the administration is smaller than those for the first terms of presidents Collor, Cardoso, Lula and Dilma but higher than those of Franco and Temer.[83]

Since his election, his popularity is steadily declining. Another Datafolha survey, published on 21 May 2019, showed that 34% of respondents consider the Bolsonaro administration as "great or good"; 26% as "regular", 36% as "bad or awful", while 4% did not respond. This is the first time more Brazilians reject the politics of Bolsonaro than affirming it.[84]


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