Brazil's Bolsonaro follows through on gun, 'anti-Marxist' vows

Brasília (AFP) –


On the eve of taking office as Brazil's new president on Tuesday, Jair Bolsonaro is making clear he intends to implement the far-right agenda he promised during his election campaign.

On his Twitter account -- his preferred communication channel along with his Facebook page -- the former paratrooper has announced he will issue a decree immediately easing gun laws, and will work to "fight the Marxist trash" he believes is being taught in classrooms.

The announcements underlined Bolsonaro's desire to break with decades of center-left rule in Brazil, as he prepares to take over from President Michel Temer, a center-right caretaker figure who served the past two years and finished with historic unpopularity.

They also reinforced the similarity between Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump, who has taken pride in keeping many of his own promises to his base regardless of the bitter national disunity that has resulted.

Bolsonaro, 63, won election in October on an anti-crime, anti-corruption platform.

He triumphed against a candidate from the left-wing Workers Party, which had held the presidency between 2003 and 2016 before graft and financial mismanagement soured its image with voters. A tepid exit from a record-busting recession also spurred appetite for change.

As he reaches out for the presidential sash, Bolsonaro is buoyed by a 75-percent approval rating that could help him push through the major reforms he promised for Latin America's biggest economy.

- Wary public -

On Saturday, he tweeted that an imminent decree would make gun possession a lot easier for adults over 25 with no criminal record.

He maintains that allowing "good" people to own guns will deter criminals, as well as bring down Brazil's record number of homicides, which reached nearly 64,000 last year.

However, observers fear that will usher in vigilante justice, and a poll by the Datafolha institute published Monday found 61 percent of Brazilians were against the idea.

Forging on, Bolsonaro on Monday tweeted that he was going to direct the education ministry to "fight the Marxist trash that has been installed in teaching institutions" and lift Brazil's poor educational standards.

He and members of his incoming government, notably his new foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, use the word "Marxist" to refer to the Workers Party and other left-wing groups.

The moves appear to take Bolsonaro away from another promise he made December 10, to the Supreme Court when his ascension to the presidency was confirmed. Then he said he would be "president for the 210 million Brazilians... with no distinction of origin, race, sex, color or religion."

A big question will be to see how Bolsonaro's government functions.

Nearly a third of the 22 ministerial posts have gone to ex-military men, while the economy has been handed to a US-trained free-market advocate, Paulo Guedes, and justice to a star anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro.

- High security -

Tight security surrounds Tuesday's presidential investiture in Brasilia, which will be attended by a dozen foreign dignitaries including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Anti-missile defenses and more than 20 warplanes will be deployed to ensure a restricted airspace over the capital.

A public crowd of between 250,000 and 500,000 is expected to turn out -- but umbrellas and backpacks will be forbidden. Frequencies used to control drones will be blocked.

The ceremony will follow on from Brazil's New Year's celebrations, which will see more than two million people crowd Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for partying and concerts, including a set by musician Gilberto Gil.

The city's Christ the Redeemer statue, that sits atop a hill overlooking Rio, will be specially illuminated with 3D projectors to give the impression it has come to life.