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Mac Margolis

Brazil’s Disruptor-in-Chief Should Learn From the Past

President Jair Bolsonaro should deepen recent reforms to kickstart the economy.

He’s got more than the sash to offer.

He’s got more than the sash to offer.

Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg


As in many democracies, political pride of place in Brazil holds that all predecessors must be vilified. But President Jair Bolsonaro should resist the rabble-rousing temptation to go too far in that direction. If he reads his cues right, he could use his populist momentum to kickstart a stalled recovery by deepening reforms that were already underway.

To judge by his first few days in office, Bolsonaro is on track to become Latin America’s disruptor-in-chief. His chief of staff Onyx Lorenzoni announced his intention to remove more than 300 discretionary appointees in his office left over from previous administrations, a whiff of the ideological “delousing” to come in Brasilia. Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo vowed to “liberate foreign policy” by rolling back “globalism.” The iconic Labor Ministry, the indigenous protection agency’s prerogative to demarcate native lands, explicit human rights protection for LGBTQ people, and Brazil’s strict gun controls? Likely all history.