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DON’T GO TOO FAR WITH THE “TROPICAL TRUMP” STUFF

DON’T GO TOO FAR WITH THE “TROPICAL TRUMP” STUFF

As widely expected, Brazil’s far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro won the country’s presidential runoff in a landslide on Sunday. His brash and improbable rise to power has invited comparisons to US President Donald Trump, whom he openly admires.


So we thought we’d take a look at what that comparison does and doesn’t tell us about the man set to lead Latin America’s largest country.

It’s true that Trump and Bolsonaro have some important things in common. They both surged from the fringes to the center of power by exploiting popular frustrations with the traditional political class. They have both thrived on polarization and love to use rough language – in particular about women and minorities – to signal to their followers a kind of brash, unyielding authenticity. They both shrewdly used social media to circumvent mainstream media outlets that they decried as biased and hostile. Neither man has much regard for environmental protections or multilateral agreements, and the business community has gladly taken a gamble on both.

But taking the comparison too far can obscure the uniqueness of Brazil’s situation, which is very different from the United States. While Trump, to be sure, tapped into many Americans’ rising frustrations with trade, technology, and a changing society, his inaugural description of “American carnage” rings much truer of today’s Brazil than it does of the US.

Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, has a rising murder rate that is more than six times higher than that of the US. What’s more, Brazil is just barely clawing out of the worst economic contraction in its history, and the country’s political class has been gutted by a multi-year anti-graft scandal that exposed malfeasance across the political spectrum, among officials and top businessmen alike. Popular confidence in the government has collapsed.

In his bid to solve these problems, Mr. Bolsonaro takes office with a stronger mandate than Trump – he won the popular vote by a whopping 10 million ballots with turnout of 80 percent – but also with a weak grip on a badly fragmented legislature. Trump lost the popular vote but came into office with both houses of Congress firmly on his side.

Bolsonaro, a former army man, has a defined track record of authoritarian pronouncements. That has raised concerns about how he – and Brazil’s institutions of democracy – will react if the going gets tougher in what is, quite clearly, a very tough situation to begin with.

So while Bolsonaro and Trump are certainly both part of the broader shift away from traditional political parties and norms that has swept across the world’s major democracies in recent years, Mr. Bolsonaro takes power in Brazil amid very different circumstances.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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