Brasilia, January 1, 2019. It’s almost 5 pm and thousands of people have already endured hours of brutal January sunshine, with nothing in the way of shade in the capital’s Ministries Esplanade. In the square that connects Brazil’s presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court, an enthusiastic crowd waits, decked in yellow and green, with t-shirts bearing a whole array of right-wing slogans. Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has just arrived at the spot where he is to receive the presidential sash from the departing leader, Michel Temer.
The excitement is palpable, with all faces and mobile phone cameras turned toward the presidential palace. Placing the presidential garment around his right shoulder, Mr. Bolsonaro moves to address the nation, alongside the new First Lady, Michelle.
Behind me stands 24-year-old student Cinthia Souza, who arrived early with her family. She is waving a large sign that reads: “January 1st, 2019 – Brazil’s new Independence Day.” She thinks the new president will be able to free the country from most of its ills: “This is our cry. This is our independence from corruption, lack of healthcare, lack of education and everything that we’ve been suffering from.”