An evangelical mega-church bishop who once branded Catholics demons was sworn in as Rio de Janeiro’s mayor on Sunday, putting a staunch conservative in charge of one of Latin America’s most liberal cities.
Marcelo Crivella, from the socially conservative Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), won the mayoral race in October municipal elections.
His election was in keeping with a rightward political shift across Latin America, including in Brazil — the continent’s biggest country — where the socialist president was recently impeached and where her Workers’ Party suffered stark losses.
The Workers’ Party in that election lost about two-thirds of the mayoral posts it had won in 2012 elections, including in Brazil’s largest city Sao Paulo.
Crivella — a bishop in the giant Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, founded by his billionaire uncle — has promised to bring law and order to Rio, a city beset by high crime.
Evangelical politicians are advancing steadily across Brazil, helped by disgust over revelations of systemic corruption among leading politicians and executives during the Workers’ Party era.
The scandal-plagued party received another blow in 2016 when President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office on charges that she broke government budget laws.
The evangelical message has taken root among Brazil’s poor, who earlier were more inclined to vote along leftist lines.
However, Crivella has had to work hard to distance himself from statements he made in a book he wrote in 1999 in which he described Roman Catholics as “demonic” and claimed that Hindus drank their children’s blood.
The 59-year-old has also described homosexuality as evil and African religions as worshiping “evil spirits.”