Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro

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By RAFAEL R. IORIS*

The frustrated attempt at automatic alignment under the aegis of authoritarian neoliberalism

The surprising elections of the tragic figures of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro to the respective presidential positions of the USA and Brazil should be read as expressions of a broader crisis of liberal democracy derived from a long process of promoting an atomistic ideology of society based on the neoliberal policies of the 1990s.

But although they ran their campaigns based on criticism of the limits of current democratic representation, once in power, what these leaders did was to deepen an authoritarian, individualistic and exclusionary vision, increasingly dependent on the promise of easy and fallacious solutions to problems. complexes each nation has been facing in recent years. And even though they share the same logic and political ideas, and even though they have tried to bring their countries closer together, at least on a discursive level, under the aegis of an almost automatic alignment, sought by Jair Bolsonaro, such a project has not offered any concrete gain to Brazil. , having even deepened the asymmetrical nature of the relationship, in addition to having acutely tarnished Brazil's international image.

These are some of the main arguments of the analysis that I, Rafael R. Ioris, and Roberto Moll Jr., respectively professors at the University of Denver, in the United States, and at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, outlined in the article “Trump and Bolsonaro: Expressões Neo- Fascists of the Frustrated Attempt to Redefine the Asymmetrical Relations between Brazil and the USA”, recently published (in English) in the Magazine Ibero-American Studies.

We also argue that although they presented themselves as outsiders of the political system of their respective countries, the viability of their anti-systemic narratives was based on fear of change and the very idea of ​​multicultural democracy, as well as on the vague promise of reconstructing a mythologized past on neoconservative bases. In this sense, when they resume the neoliberal economic agenda, now in even more authoritarian terms than in the 1990s, such authoritarian and demagogic leaders have managed to maintain surprisingly high levels of support amidst contexts continually defined by challenging economic conditions and public health conditions. increasingly alarming.

But if Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro had a lot in common, domestic contexts mattered a lot for their desiderata, as well as for the bilateral relationship between their respective countries. If both could be defined as clear representatives of far-right neopopulism, in vogue in several parts of the world, the role of the armed forces in the government of Brazil, a country that never faced its legacy of coup interventions by its military, was something very specific, with wreckage still unfolding for civil-military relations.

Likewise, if Donald Trump's populism took on a more xenophobic and racist character, Jair Bolsonaro's had a more militaristic and ideological bias, expressing the return of articulations of notions dating back to the context of the Cold War and which seemed extinct in the Latin American scenario. , which has, nevertheless, been surprisingly rescued by new right-wing leaders in the region. Finally, despite sharing an authoritarian political ideology and a mafia (self-serving) vision of power, it is certain that the situation in each country was very diverse given the obvious differences between the power resources and role of each nation in the global scenario.

Such structural differences did not prevent, however, both leaders from seeking a clientelistic approach, where the diplomacy of their respective countries began to seek a closely aligned relationship not only between the countries, but between the two family clans in power. And even though Brazil presented a line of diplomacy most often defined by autonomy and the defense of multilateral logic, it was not difficult for Jair Bolsonaro to seek to realign foreign policy on ideological bases that sought, in an ill-informed and certainly anachronistic way, to guide the defense of Brazilian national interests while fulfilling the role of junior associate member of Trump's foreign policy. It is clear that part of this derived from the attempt to reverse the gains in the country's multilateral projection over the last few decades.

Even so, founded on a medievalist and pre-montane vision of the world of the then chancellor Ernesto Araújo, Bolsonarist foreign policy explicitly assumed the fight against universalist values ​​and defended that a greater approximation, on dependentist and associated bases, to the USA would be the best way of articulating Brazil's interests in today's world. Gains of recent years, such as obtaining greater weight in trade and environmental governance negotiations, should be reversed.

The regional sphere of influence should be demobilized. And what should be sought would be the defense (a la medieval crusades) of the values ​​of Western Christianity against the threat (never well defined) of cultural communism. Consistent with the same defense made by similar regimes, such as Orban's in Hungary, defending Western values ​​does not imply defending a more inclusive vision of democracy, increasingly defined according to restrictive parameters (eg human rights for human rights).

And so, as expressions of a broader crisis of liberal democracy, Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump never actually sought to offer effective responses to demands for better levels of political representation in the complex societies in which we live. On the contrary, they served more than anything as a means of implementing an exclusionary economic (neoliberal) and political (authoritarian) agenda. Interestingly, despite their ideological and moral affinities, these leaders were unable to implement more lasting forms of close and subordinate diplomatic alignment – ​​despite how much Jair Bolsonaro, especially, tried.

In addition to the structural reasons that did not allow such developments (eg, changes in the global economic scenario leading to greater dependence of the Brazilian economy on the Chinese market), the achievements of recent decades of Brazilian diplomacy in terms of projecting the country on the international scene in a more structural and lasting have certainly served as impediments to such a subordinate approach. It is certain, however, that a possible return of Donald Trump to the US presidency and the growing US-China rivalry will present increasing difficulties for the conduct of foreign policy even for a Brazil no longer under the shameful presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.

*Rafael R. Ioris is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Denver (USA).


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