With Jair Bolsonaro president-elect, and his three sons in elected office — Flavio in the Senate, Eduardo in the Congress and Carlos on Rio de Janeiro’s city council — politics in Brazil is something of a Bolsonaro family affair.
Last week, three of Bolsonaro’s five children joined him at the Congress in Brasilia for a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the country’s constitution.
Carlos wasn’t there, but Flavio, Eduardo and their younger brother Renan, still a student, were among those invited to the president-elect’s meeting with Supreme Court chairman Dias Toffoli.
Toffoli was noticeably cool towards Eduardo, who mocked the court during the campaign, telling supporters that if the court tried to remove his father from power, it would take just two soldiers to shut it down. The hint at a military coup rankled with the judiciary.
Eduardo, along with Flavio and Carlos, all campaigned fiercely for their father — who takes office on January 1 — backing his extreme right-wing views during the campaign, and are constantly at his side during the transition period.
“It’s the first time that we will have a president who will have a son in the Chamber and another in the Senate,” said Sylvio Costa of politics website Congresso em Foco.
“For sure they will have an influence on the government.”
– Bolsonaro’s soldiers –
Flavio, a lawyer and the eldest at 37, played a leading role in his father’s campaign after Bolsonaro was stabbed and seriously wounded during a September election rally. He rode a groundswell of support for his father all the way to a Senate seat.
Carlos, 35, is an influential municipal councilor in Rio and has an aeronautical sciences degree. He is credited with playing a key part in maximizing his father’s social media use during the campaign.
Seen as the most whimsical of the brothers, it’s not clear whether he will be handed an official role in the new administration — but its seems certain Carlos will have continued influence on his father’s online presence.
A lawyer by training, 34-year-old Eduardo easily won re-election to Congress after holding his seat in Sao Paulo with a record 1.84 million votes. He has been seen extensively alongside his father in Brasilia and will soon visit the United States as his father’s envoy.
Flavio, the most moderate of the three, posted a photo of himself and his brothers on Instagram, to silence rumors of conflicts between the siblings.
“My brothers and I are strong, united for a better Brazil, soldiers of the same captain, our father Jair Bolsonaro,” he wrote.
So, what will the Bolsonaro soldiers be able to do?
“Flavio can take over one of the Senate committees, like education or foreign affairs, he can push forward his father’s program,” said Marcio Coimbra of Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Sao Paulo.
As for Eduardo, “he will have a strong mandate and will probably take over one of the big committees in the Chamber like foreign affairs or Constitution and Justice.”
“They are intelligent, they are going to be essential,” as a tool for Bolsonaro to wield influence with the Congress, Coimbra said.
But the brothers, like Bolsonaro himself, divide opinion.
“These brothers could become a big problem,” says Costa, of Congresso em Foco.
“They talk too much, they don’t know the rules of politics. They have a very aggressive style.”
From January, “they will have to say things they don’t believe themselves,” warned Costa.
“It’s crucial that they have a good relationship with the other parties.”
Already the omnipresence of the Bolsonaro boys on the political stage since the election is making some observers cringe.
Miriam Leitao, columnist at the O Globo daily, is outraged that Flavio and Carlos played a part in the selection of Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, whom they interviewed.
“What qualifies them? President Bolsonaro informally will always listen to his children, but when they gain the status of a screening team for the ministry, it’s a confusion between family and government that should not exist,” she said.
“It’s not normal from an institutional point of view.”
Political dynasties are nothing new in Brazil, with states like Bahia and Ceara coming under the influence of powerful political families.
“But this political dynasty is totally different,” said Coimbra, pointing out that the Bolsonaros “have taken power in different states,” in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Not only that: it’s also Brazil’s first extreme-right political dynasty.