Elected in the wake of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal as an anti-corruption candidate, Bolsonaro has instead surrounded himself with corrupt figures, used propaganda to promote his populist agenda, undermined the justice system, and waged a destructive war against the Amazon region that has enriched some of the country’s worst land owners.
According to the OCCRP report, Bolsonaro narrowly beat two other populist leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, for the dubious prize. Both finalists have also profited from propaganda, undermined democractic institutions in their countries, politicized their justice systems, shunned multilateral agreements, rewarded corrupt inner circles, and moved their countries away from democratic law and order toward autocracy. Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky completed the list of finalists.
“That is the central theme of the year,” said Louise Shelley, the Director of the Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University who was on the award panel. “They are all populists causing great damage to their countries, regions, and the world. Unfortunatel,y they are supported by many, which is the key of populism.”
Bolsonaro has been accused of collecting salaries for phantom employees — a practice known as salary splitting. But the judges chose him because of his hypocrisy — he came to power on the promise to fight corruption but he has not only surrounded himself with corrupt people, he has wrongly accused others of corruption.