Brazil vice president: Venezuela needs 'a change of government'

Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in October 2018, soon after the worst political scandal in Brazil's history, which saw dozens of businessmen and politicians arrested and accused of corruption.

Although he was a member of the National Congress for almost 30 years, Bolsonaro was seen as an outsider who promised to fight corruption and crime, and help Brazil recover from a deep economic crisis.

Now his challenge is to do that without angering crucial allies like China and the Arab world with his new foreign policy agenda that is taking his country closer to Israel and the United States.

Bolsonaro, who is still recovering after being stabbed in a rally before the elections last year, is hoping to pass crime and pension reforms, but many question his lack of policies to fight inequality and protect minorities.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, one of several former military members appointed to Bolsonaro's cabinet, calls himself the "sword and the shield" of the president. He spoke to Al Jazeera in Brasilia.

The political crisis in neighbouring Venezuela is a key issue for Brazil. In January 2019, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president following elections that many saw as fraudulent, while President Nicolas Maduro accused him of staging a coup and ordered his arrest.

The political crisis is taking place amid growing frustration over Venezuela's economic collapse, which has seen hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and failed public services.

Mourao believes the crisis must be addressed. "The Bolivarianism that was born with the later president, Hugo Chavez, proved to be not good for the country. It destroyed the oil industry, it destroyed their internal production. They put people against people. And so today the Venezuelan economy is totally shattered. Their social tissue also is shattered. So, of course, they need a change of government."

He does not believe this means Brazil should intervene, and said it will not. He does, however, accept recent moves by the US to put pressure on the Venezuelan government by imposed sanctions and has questioned Maduro's presidency. Recently, the US tried but failed to push the UN Security Council to call for presidential elections in Venezuela and allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid.

Internally, Brazil's government has promised to combat rising crime rates and crack down on the drug trade. In a televised interview with Brazil's TV Globo in 2018, then-candidate Bolsonaro said that police who kill criminals should be rewarded.

Bolsonaro's cabinet contains eight former military members, and some are worried that the military - Brazil was under military rule between 1964 and 1985 - may dominate politics again.

"Of course not, our democracy is a very strong one," Mourao said. "Our democracy has the balance of powers very straight. The executive does its job, the legislative does its job, the judiciary system does its job, and the president chose some military people for his cabinet. This is normal, and these guys are here working as civilians, not military. The armed forces are doing their job, nothing more than that. I don't see any threat for democracy in Brazil."

Many are concerned that minorities will not be protected under the new government, as Bolsonaro has been accused of making offensive remarks regarding women, black people and the LGBT community.

"Our constitution protects everybody here. The problem of human rights and minorities, I don't feel they are unprotected here in Brazil. And the government ... has a very good look for this and nobody is going to be persecuted here in Brazil," Mourao said.

In January 2019, a gay legislator left Brazil after receiving death threats. Deaths of LGBT people has more than tripled since 2011, with 420 deaths through homicide and suicide in 2018, according to a report written by gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia and summarised by teleSUR English.

"I walk in the streets, I don't see anybody fighting the gay people," Mourao said. "They are not killed because they are gays, they are killed because of crimes that happen with all other kinds of people. When 60,000 people are killed here in Brazil, some of them are from the gay community. I don't see a gay persecution in Brazil."
source: aljazeera