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Glenn Greenwald on Bolsonaro: Brazil Has Elected "Most Extremist Leader in the Democratic World"

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Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro has been elected Brazil's next president, marking the most radical political shift in the country since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. Bolsonaro, a former Army officer, openly supports torture and dictatorships, has a history of making racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments, and has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. He defeated Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers' Party with 55 percent of the vote. His ascendance to power is leading many to fear the future of democracy in Brazil is in danger. We speak with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept, in Rio de Janeiro. He says that Bolsonaro is "by far the most extremist leader now elected anywhere in the democratic world."

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, as we turn to Brazil, where a far-right former Army officer who openly supports dictatorships and torture has been overwhelmingly elected president. Jair Bolsonaro's election marks the most radical political shift in Brazil since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. He won 55 percent of the vote, easily defeating Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers' Party.

Bolsonaro campaigned on a promise to end corruption and crack down on crime, but many fear the future of democracy in Brazil is in danger. For decades, Bolsonaro has openly praised the country's former military dictatorship, once saying the dictatorship should have killed 30,000 more people. He also has a history of making racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments, has spoken in favor of torture, has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. He has also encouraged the police to kill suspected drug dealers, once told a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape. He also said he would rather hear that his son had died in a car accident than learn that his son is gay. On Sunday night, Jair Bolsonaro claimed he would help liberate Brazil.

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PRESIDENT-ELECT JAIR BOLSONARO: [translated] You are my witness that I will be an advocate for defending the constitution, for democracy, for freedom. This is my promise. It's not one of a political party. It's not the word of a man. It's an oath to God. ... We will liberate Brazil and the Foreign Ministry from the ideology of its international relations that it's subjected Brazil to in recent years. Brazil will no longer be different from the countries of the developed world. We will seek bilateral relations that add to the economic and technological value of Brazilian products. We will restore international respect for our dear Brazil.

AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of protesters poured into the streets of São Paulo and other cities in Brazil to protest Bolsonaro's election.

PROTESTER: [translated] I am in mourning, not for me, but for Brazil, which doesn't deserve this. It doesn't deserve this ignorance. The Brazilian people are ignorant. Brazil owes a lot to Lula.

AMY GOODMAN: Jair Bolsonaro directly benefited from the jailing of the former Brazilian President Luiz Ina'cio Lula da Silva, who had been leading all presidential polls earlier this year. He has been in jail since April on what many consider trumped-up corruption charges to prevent him from running for president. Bolsonaro will be sworn in January 1st, 2019.

Just moments ago, President Trump tweeted, "Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won his race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call, wished him congrats!"

To discuss the implications of Bolsonaro's victory, we go to Rio de Janeiro to speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

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Glenn, welcome back. Your response to Bolsonaro's victory?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think it's really important to put it into its proper context. For a long time, the Western media was referring to him as "Brazil's Trump." That's how he was marketing himself. The reality is much different. He's by far the most extremist leader now elected anywhere in the democratic world. He's far closer, as we've discussed before, to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, or even General Sisi, the dictator of Egypt. A journalist, Vincent Bevins, based for a long time in Brazil and now in Indonesia, has made the argument that he's far more extreme than Duterte.

I think that the key thing to understand about Bolsonaro is that he really comes not from this modern "alt-right" movement of the type of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen, but the Cold War far right that carried out enormous atrocities in the name of fighting domestic communism, which is what Bolsonaro believes his primary project to be. He recently vowed to cleanse the country of left-wing opposition, which he sees as a communist front.

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