Brazil swears in far-right president Bolsonaro in ceremony attended by Netanyahu, Orban

Brazil swears in far-right president Bolsonaro in ceremony attended by Netanyahu, Orban
Latin America's largest and most populous nation has entered a new era under the presidency of a far-right government led by Jair Bolsonaro.
2 min read
01 January, 2019
Jair Bolsonaro [R] rose to office on a pro-gun, anti-corruption agenda [AFP]

Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil's president on Tuesday, taking the reins of Latin America's largest and most populous nation with promises to overhaul myriad aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.

A fan of US President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energised conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers' Party.

Bolsonaro was the latest of several far-right leaders around the globe who have come to power by riding waves of anger at the establishment and promising to ditch the status quo.

Brazil's capital, Brasilia, was under tight security, with 3,000 police patrolling the event. Military tanks, fighter jets and even anti-aircraft missiles also were deployed. Journalists were made to arrive at locations seven hours before festivities began, and many complained on Twitter of officials confiscating food they had brought for the wait.

The increased security came at Bolsonaro's request. His intestine was pierced when a knife-wielding man stabbed him at a campaign rally in September, and he has to wear a colostomy bag. His sons, politicians themselves, insist their father could be targeted by radicals, but security officials have not spoken of threats.

Bolsonaro did little moderating since being elected in October, with progressives and liberals decrying stances that they say are homophobic, sexist and racist.

The incoming president, who spent nearly three decades in Congress, has also drawn international criticism for his plans to roll back regulations in the Amazon and his disinterest in social programs in a country that is one of the world's most unequal in terms of income.

The most notable foreign leaders who planned to attend were also associated with far-right movements: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Last year, Bolsonaro said that as president he would follow in the footsteps of the US by moving his country's Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu welcomed the announcement and called it "historic" - though Bolsonaro later backtracked by saying "it hasn't been decided yet".

Leftist Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba, deemed dictators by Bolsonaro, were uninvited by Bolsonaro's team after the foreign ministry sent them invitations. The United States was represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.