Jair Bolsonaro, the wildcard in Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, is comfortable when interviewers try to press him on social issues. Known for his homophobic, racist, and sexist statements, Mr. Bolsonaro doesn’t miss an opportunity to double down on his antics. But the leader in all opinion polls (when former President Lula is not on the ballot) is visibly uncomfortable when asked about the economy. In a recent television interview, he said, once again, that he doesn’t understand the first thing about it.
Still, every time he does talk about the economy, Mr. Bolsonaro makes sure to nod in the direction of big business, saying his administration would always side with employers, to the detriment of workers. In a July event organized by the National Confederation of Industry – CNI, the voice of Brazil’s industrial class – the candidate pandered to his audience: “Your will must prevail,” he told representatives of big business. “The press must stop looking at you as the bad guys. Being a business owner in Brazil is to be the bad guy.”
If elected, Mr. Bolsonaro said that workers will have to choose: either they are offered fewer rights and a job, or enjoy all of their rights, but face unemployment. While neither option seems appealing to employees, the remarks helped the candidate win over the room. He was effusively applauded 12 times during his speech and left the stage as the most celebrated candidate of the event.