RIO DE JANEIRO: Right-wing Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro once said he’d rather have a dead son than one who came out of the closet, but that isn’t stopping conservative gay voters from backing him in Sunday’s decisive election run-off.
And even though the former army captain has made comments deemed misogynist and racist, 30-year-old black administrative assistant Priscila Santos says she will tick the box next to Bolsonaro’s name.
For these voters, Bolsonaro is tough on crime and will help create jobs in the country’s flailing economy — and those factors trump whatever questionable comments he may have made in the past.
“I don’t see that wickedness in Bolsonaro that others see,” says David Trabuco, a 26-year-old gay evangelical Christian and make-up artist now living near Brasilia.
“I think we’re not used to dealing with someone like him — a tough guy, strong, someone decisive”.
Trabuco says he left Sao Paulo a year ago to settle on the outskirts of Brazil’s capital, where he initially worked as a prostitute and got caught up in taking drugs.
He then received help from an evangelical church, one of the bastions of Bolsonaro support in the country, to escape the dark times.
During the bitter and polarized campaign that ends Sunday with Bolsonaro’s run-off against leftist Workers’ Party (PT) opponent Fernando Haddad, Trabuco says he’s turned a deaf ear to warnings from friends that a far-right government would yield an increase in homophobic violence.
According to the Gay Grupo Bahia charity, 387 murders and 58 suicides occurred in Brazil last year due to “homotransphobia” — an increase of 30 percent as compared with 2016.
But Trabuco says he’s far more concerned about being unable to “step out into the street with a cell phone in your hand.”
“I’m not just thinking about myself, nor worrying if he’ll accept my (sexual) orientation,” he added, referring to Bolsonaro.
“I’m worried about security and health”.
Thiago Geraldo — who is 29, gay and unemployed, having failed to finish university — says Bolsonaro won him over with pledges to battle Workers’ Party “corruption.”
On Sunday, Geraldo took part in a massive pro-Bolsonaro demonstration in front of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana beach.
He wore a sleeveless T-shirt emblazoned with an image of the right-wing leader and took part in chants against “PT communism” and “gender ideology.”
Sheepishly, he admits to having previously voted for the PT before a series of corruption scandals engulfed the party’s top brass — former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been jailed and his successor Dilma Rousseff was impeached.
Now a “right-wing gay,” Geraldo says he believes that a strong government is needed to create employment and banish the fear of spiralling violence that left 63,800 people dead last year.
“A good citizen who is armed can protect me,” he said, balking at suggestions that a Bolsonaro government would spell bad news for the LGBT community.
“This story about Brazil being the place with the highest number of murders of homosexuals is a lie”.
Both Trabuco and Geraldo dismiss criticisms of Bolsonaro as “press inventions”.
The desire to feel safe
Santos, for her part, is ardently anti-PT.
“My situation as a black woman is the same as my white neighbor or that of a homosexual: we’re fed up with being robbed and of paying taxes without seeing results,” she said.
The mother-of-three says she is excited by the prospect of a new leader with a military background tackling corruption.
Bolsonaro evokes fear in criminals and “makes them taste their own medicine,” she says.
One of Bolsonaro’s campaign pledges has been to allow citizens to carry arms for self-protection.
“Is someone going to act calmly knowing that other people are carrying weapons?” she asked.
Three times this year alone, Santos has been robbed of her cell phone, once by an armed assailant.
She says she wants more than anything to feel safe.
She insists, too, that she’s “never seen a Bolsonaro proposal that removes rights,” denying that the military man, who is nostalgic for the order and lack of crime under Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, has ever said anything offensive.
In April, after visiting a black neighborhood, Bolsonaro made a comment about the locals’ weight, adding: “They don’t do anything. They’re no use even to procreate”.
In 2014, he said a leftist politician was “very ugly” and that she “doesn’t deserve to be raped”.
And in 2011, he told Playboy magazine that he “wouldn’t be able to love a gay son”.
While polls have Bolsonaro dominating the white vote, with 60% compared to Haddad’s 29, the right-winger also leads amongst black and mixed race voters with 47% to the PT candidate’s 41%, according to pollsters Ibope. — AFP