Bolsonaro says Brazil 'liberated from Socialism' at inaugural ceremony

Evaristo Sa, AFP | Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro gestures after receiveing the presidential sash at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on January 1, 2019.

Brazil's newly inaugurated far-right President Jair Bolsonaro said in his address to the nation on Tuesday that Latin America’s most populous country has now been "liberated from Socialism and political correctness".


Bolsonaro is the latest of several far-right leaders around the world who have come to power on a wave of anti-establishment anger and promises to ditch the status quo.

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 Brazilian conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers' Party.


Tuesday's festivities in the capital of Brasilia began with a motorcade procession along the main road leading to Congress and other government buildings. Bolsonaro and his wife, Michelle, stood up in an open-top Rolls-Royce and waved to thousands of onlookers.

They were surrounded by dozens of guards on horses and plain-clothes bodyguards who ran beside the car.

Once inside Congress, Bolsonaro and his vice president, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, took the oath of office. Bolsonaro then read a short speech that included many of the far-right positions he staked out during the campaign.

He promised to combat the "ideology of gender" teaching in schools, "respect our Judeo-Christian tradition" and "prepare children for the job market, not political militancy".

"I call on all congressmen to help me rescue Brazil from corruption, criminality and ideological submission," he said, earning a congratulatory message from Trump.

"Congratulations to President @jairbolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech," the US president tweeted. "The U.S.A. is with you!"

Bolsonaro promptly thanked Trump, adding: "under God's protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people!"

A short time later, Bolsonaro spoke to thousands of supporters outside the Planalto presidential palace, promising to "free Brazil" from Socialism and political correctness.

At one point he pulled out a Brazilian flag and wildly waved it, prompting roars from the crowd and chants of "Myth! Myth! Myth!" – a nickname used by supporters for whom Bolsonaro, whose middle name is Messias, was chosen by God to lead Brazil.

"Our flag will never be red," he said, referring to left-wing ideologies he considers a threat to Brazil. "Our flag will only be red if blood is needed to keep it green and yellow."

The 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. The increased security came at the request of the incoming president, who was stabbed in the stomach during a campaign rally in September.

Notable foreign leaders attending the inauguration include Hungary's hardline Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Israel's hawkish premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who has hailed a budding "brotherhood" with Brazil's new leader.

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.

Seven of Bolsonaro's 22 Cabinet ministers are former military personnel, more than in any administration during Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship. That has sparked fears among his adversaries of a return to autocratic rule, but Bolsonaro insists he will respect the country's constitution.


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