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Brazil’s President-Elect Seeks to Introduce Draconian Drug Policies

Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro has won Brazil's presidential election, and has vowed to implement extraordinarily repressive drug policies.

On October 28, Bolsonaro won the election with 55 per cent of the vote. His candidacy attracted considerable criticism after he made many derogatory comments towards women, black people, indigenous communities, and gay people. Nonetheless, he achieved a sweeping victory, and will be inaugurated as president in January 2019.

Alongside his many hard-line policy approaches, Bolsonaro has vowed an intensified, militarised crackdown on drug offences.

As TalkingDrugs has reported, Bolsonaro has said that police should kill people suspected – not convicted – of drug trafficking. A move reminiscent of the drug war being implement by President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, where over 12,000 people have been killed – without trial – for alleged involvement with drugs since July 2016. Bolsonaro has made his support for Duterte’s approach clear, once stating that the murderous Filipino leader “did the right thing for his country”.

Bolsonaro has also detailed how he will increase the involvement of the Brazilian military in drug law enforcement, including the targeting of children. He says that “it would be good to have the military in the schools” because “in the streets, in the schools even, the bandidos [bandits] sell drugs and smoke marijuana openly”.

Indeed, Bolsonaro is firmly against cannabis law reform. He has warned that legalising the drug – which has taken place in neighbouring Uruguay – would “[benefit] traffickers, rapists and hostage takers", but has not cited evidence for his claims.

He has also claimed that drug use causes people to become gay, in a bizarre interview with El Pais which resulted in Bolsonaro accusatorily asking the interviewing journalist if he was homosexual.

Bolsonaro has linked illegal drug use to liberal governments, proclaiming that “drug use is prominent in countries under liberal administrations such as Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, and Venezuela”. However, as Amauri Gonzo of VICE News writes, “it’s worth noting that Honduras has been governed by a right-wing party since 2010, and Mexico's current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is a member of the centre-right wing Institutional Revolutionary Party”.

Many of Jair Bolsonaro’s drug policies and ideas are vague notions, rather than concrete policy plans, so it is unclear to what extent the country’s approach to drugs will change following his inauguration in January.

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