Bolsonaro was born on 21 March 1955 in the town of Glicério, in São Paulo, in the southeast region of Brazil, to Percy Geraldo Bolsonaro and Olinda Bonturi. His family is mostly of Italian descent, with some German ancestry. On his father's side, he is the great-grandson of Italians from Veneto and Calabria. Bolsonaro's paternal grandfather's family comes from Veneto, more precisely the city of Anguillara Veneta, in the province of Padua. His great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro (the surname was originally written with a Z), was born on 12 April 1878. Vittorio's parents immigrated to Brazil when he was ten, together with his little siblings, Giovanna and Tranquillo. His German ancestry came from his father's maternal grandfather, Carl "Carlos" Hintze, born in Hamburg around 1876, who immigrated to Brazil in 1883. His maternal grandparents were born in the Italian city of Lucca, in Tuscany, and went to live in Brazil in the 1890s.
Bolsonaro spent most of his childhood moving around São Paulo with his family, living in the cities of Ribeira, Jundiaí, and Sete Barras, before settling in the town of Eldorado, in the south region of the state, in 1966, where he would grow up together with his five brothers.
In his final years in high school, Bolsonaro was admitted to the Escola Preparatória de Cadetes do Exército (the prep school of the Brazilian Army), where he entered in 1973. In 1974, he went to the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (Brazil's main military academy), graduating in 1977, as an Artillery officer. He served in the 9th Field Artillery Group, in Nioaque, Mato Grosso do Sul. Later he studied at the Army Physical Training School in Rio de Janeiro and served in the 21st Field Artillery Group and in the 8th Paratrooper Field Artillery Group, from the Paratrooper Brigade, both in the same city. His superior officers described him as "ambitious and aggressive".
His first rise to publicity came in 1986 when he gave an interview to the news magazine Veja. He complained about low salaries in the military and claimed that the High Command was firing officers due to budgetary cuts and not because they were displaying 'deviations of conduct', as the command was telling the press. Despite being reprimanded by his superiors, Bolsonaro received praise from fellow officers and wives of military men, becoming a household name for a lot of hardliners and right-wingers who were growing disenchanted with Brazil's new civilian democratic government.
In 1987, he studied in the Officers Improvement School, where he made the Artillery Advanced Course. Bolsonaro served in the military for fifteen years, reaching the rank of Captain.
Bolsonaro as Rio de Janeiro city councillor, 1990
Councillor of Rio de Janeiro (1989–1991)
In 1988, he entered politics by getting elected as city councillor in Rio de Janeiro by the Christian Democratic Party.
Federal Deputy for Rio de Janeiro (1991–2018)
In the 1990 elections, he was elected a federal deputy from the same party. He served seven consecutive terms, from 1991 to 2018. He has been affiliated with several other Brazilian political parties over the years. In 2014, he was the congressman who gained the most votes in Rio de Janeiro, with 465,000 votes.
In his 27 years of service in the Brazilian National Congress, he put forward at least 171 bills and one constitutional amendment, passing two of them into law. According to Bolsonaro, who claims to be persecuted by the left-wing parties, most congressmen do not vote according to their agenda, but "by who the author of the bill is".
In January 2018, Bolsonaro abandoned the Social Christian Party and switched to the Social Liberal Party (PSL). Following Bolsonaro's arrival, the PSL adopted conservative and right-wing positions, and its social liberal group Livres announced their departure from the party.
2018 presidential campaign
On 22 July 2018, Bolsonaro was officially nominated by the Social Liberal Party (PSL) as its presidential candidate for the 2018 election. Bolsonaro was also endorsed by the Brazilian Labour Renewal Party. His coalition name was "Brazil above everything, God above everyone" (Brasil acima de tudo, Deus acima de todos). Though contested by two lawsuits, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil deferred them and his candidacy was made official on 6 August. Bolsonaro announced in August that Antônio Hamilton Mourão, a retired army general, would be his running mate for the upcoming election.
Bolsonaro supporters in London, 7 October 2018
According to political pundits, early in the campaign, Bolsonaro moderated his tone, taking a less aggressive and confrontational style. Economically, he started to support the idea of less government intervention in the economy (in contrast to what he had stated in the past, when he defended developmentalists policies). On the other hand, he maintained his tough stance on crime and his defense of "traditional family values". Bolsonaro also said he plans to cut taxes across the board, particularly on inheritances and businesses, in order to generate growth and tackle unemployment. He also promised more austerity measures and cuts in government spending, but had difficulty naming the areas where he would make these cuts. He also mentioned he would work to diminish the size and bureaucracy of the federal government by throwing out a wide variety of deregulation measures. Bolsonaro's promises to restore security amid record high crime and to stamp out the country's rampant political corruption won him huge popular support. In October, Bolsonaro announced he would name liberal economist Paulo Guedes to serve as his Finance minister.
On 9 August 2018, he attended the first presidential debate of the year, organized by the TV network Rede Bandeirantes. A week later, there was another debate at RedeTV!. On 28 August, he gave an interview to Jornal Nacional, Brazil's best rated prime time news program, at Rede Globo.
Jair Bolsonaro was the first candidate for the presidency that was able to raise over R$1 million in donations from the public during the 2018 campaign. In the first 59 days, he amassed an average of R$17,000 per day in donations.
After the Workers' Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was arrested in April 2018, Bolsonaro became the front-runner, according to all major opinion polls, for that year's presidential election. A Datafolha poll from September, for instance, showed Bolsonaro as the leading candidate in the first round with 28% of vote intentions; however, run-off scenarios showed Bolsonaro losing to opponents Geraldo Alckmin, Fernando Haddad and Ciro Gomes and tying with Marina Silva. Another poll from Datafolha, conducted in the week leading up to election day, showed a considerable surge for Bolsonaro, who had 40% of vote intentions, or 36% when null or blank vote intentions are included. Fernando Haddad came in second with 25%, and Ciro Gomes in third with 15%.
The first round of the election occurred on 7 October 2018, with Bolsonaro finishing it in first place with 46% of the popular vote (or 49.2 million people). Since he failed to win overall 50% of valid votes needed to win outright, he faced the second most voted, Fernando Haddad from the Workers' Party, in the second round that was held on 28 October 2018.
On the second round, Bolsonaro end up winning the election, with 55.13% of the votes, being elected the 38th president of Brazil. He took office on 1 January 2019.
Attack during campaign event
Bolsonaro was stabbed in the stomach on 6 September 2018 while campaigning and interacting with supporters in the city of Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais. At first, his son Flávio Bolsonaro stated that his father's wounds were only superficial and he was recovering in the hospital, but Flávio later stated that the wounds seemed worse than initially thought and his father most likely would not be able to start campaigning personally before the end of the first round. He tweeted about his father's condition, explaining that the perforation reached parts of the liver, lung, and intestine. He also stated that Bolsonaro had lost a large amount of blood, arriving at the hospital with severe hypotension (his blood pressure was 10/3, equivalent to 100/30 mmHg), but that he had since stabilized. The attack was condemned by most of the other candidates in the presidential race, from both sides of the political spectrum, and by then current Brazilian president Michel Temer. The day after the attack, Bolsonaro was transferred to the Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in São Paulo, after a request from his family. According to the doctors, he was in an "extremely stable" condition.
Police arrested and identified the attacker as Adélio Bispo de Oliveira, who, according to security agents, claimed he was on "a mission from God". He had been a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party between 2007 and 2014. His social media posts included political criticisms against both Bolsonaro and Temer.
On 29 September, a month after the attack, Bolsonaro was released from the hospital and returned to his home in Rio de Janeiro. However, his condition prevented him from returning to the campaign trail for the remainder of the first round of the presidential election. In the same weekend he left the hospital, thousands of people took the streets in dozens of cities in Brazil to protest against Bolsonaro and his political stances, chanting "Ele não" ("Not him"). There were also rallies in support of the candidate in sixteen states.