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Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro vows to ‘strengthen democracy’

Right-wing nationalist Jair Bolsonaro took office as Brazil’s president on Tuesday, vowing to crack down on rampant political corruption and bring an end to the economic mismanagement of previous leftist governments. Addressing a joint session of Congress minutes after taking the oath of office, Bolsonaro, a former army captain and admirer of the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, vowed to adhere to democratic rules of Brazil’s constitution.

He called on lawmakers to help him “free the nation definitively from the yoke of corruption, crime, economic irresponsibility and ideological submission.”

On the economic front, the new leader promised to open foreign markets for Brazil and enact reforms to reduce a yawning budget deficit, putting government accounts on a sustainable path.

While investors see Bolsonaro reinvigorating Latin America’s largest economy, environmentalists and rights groups are worried he will roll back protections for the Amazon rainforest and loosen gun controls in a country that already has the world’s highest number of murders.

Bolsonaro, 63, was a seven-term fringe congressman who rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to became Brazil’s first far-right president since a military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule three decades ago.

Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his inauguration.

Trump congratulated Bolsonaro in a Twitter message, saying “The USA is with you”.

As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

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