Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has often been described as the “Trump of the tropics,” in reference to the former leader of the United States. But this has led to superficial comparisons between the two countries. It is true that the Bolsonaro family and members of Steve Bannon’s ultra-conservative “Movement” have worked together closely, and social media disinformation tactics were imported from the US and became a key factor in Bolsonaro’s 2018 electoral victory. However, Brazil’s electoral system is completely different. Many things that are illegal in US elections – especially regarding campaign funding – are considered election fraud under Brazilian law.
The first round of the general elections in Brazil was held on October 2, and the results show that the country is at a crossroads. Former President Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) did not achieve victory in round one, and will face current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in a run-off on October 30. Lula da Silva obtained 48.4% of the valid votes, while Bolsonaro reached 43.2%. The other candidates combined did not get 9% of the valid votes. The results of the elections point to a great paradox: despite being ahead of Bolsonaro, the Brazilian left did not obtain a significant vote for state governments and did not even win a third of the seats in the two chambers of the Congress, the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Both the US and British governments supported the rise of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Future Prime Minister Liz Truss had secret meetings with the future president in 2018 to discuss “free trade, free markets and post-Brexit opportunities” (BrasilWire, 3/25/20). The US Department of Justice was a crucial partner in the Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) investigation, which resulted in the prosecution and jailing of Brazil’s left-leaning former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The politically motivated legal campaign against Lula served to prevent his participation in the 2018 presidential election, in what Gaspard Estrada calls “the biggest judicial scandal in Brazilian history.” Because of this history, and because Brazil is a hard country to explain concisely, I was weary to learn that the British and US state-affiliated media outlets BBC and PBS had co-released a documentary about Jair Bolsonaro only a few weeks before this year’s Brazilian presidential election (10/2–30/22). It didn’t fail to disappoint.
Brazil is less than a month away from historic elections. Over 156 million Brazilians will go to the polls on October 2 to cast their vote for the president of the republic, State governors, 27 senators, 513 federal deputies, and State and district deputies. The elections take place amid an acute political, economic, and social crisis in the country. The past several years have seen a dramatic increase in hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and the prices of basic commodities. The currency, the Real, has tumbled. Above all, the colossal number of deaths due to COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow on the lives of millions. Despite this moment of national crisis, the far-right candidate in the elections, President Jair Bolsonaro, has dedicated much of his campaign to sowing divisive, angry, and hateful rhetoric.
Folha de São Paulo reports that the YouTube algorithm has found to be giving prominence to videos in favor of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in its recommendations. The findings were published by NetLab, a special unit at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). According to opinion polls, Bolsonaro is on course to lose the coming election, after a catastrophic first term, and the far-right president and his military dominated government has attempted to cast doubt on the electoral process itself, as a means to remain in power. The UFRG study finds he is being aided in this by YouTube, owned by US tech giant Google. It is not the first time the company has faced criticism for apparent political interference in Brazil.
It is no secret that, since the 2016 legislative coup against President Dilma Rousseff and 2018 arbitrary imprisonment of front-running presidential candidate Lula da Silva, multinational corporations have made billions of dollars from environmental deregulation, dismantlement of labor rights and privatization of Brazil’s natural resources. It’s also now known that corporate media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post normalized the breakdown of Brazil’s rule of law and rise of fascism by ignoring crimes committed by high-profile Judge Sergio Moro that were widely publicized in Brazilian media. Some people in the US even know how Anglo media outlets like the Washington Post and Guardian misrepresented Lula’s conviction for receiving a nonexistent apartment upgrade by unethically associating it with an alleged multi-million dollar graft scheme in state oil company, Petrobras.
The MST is a peasant movement that organizes people to struggle for agrarian reform and for the democratization of land in Brazil. So I believe most of the people in Latin America knows, but Brazil has one of the highest land concentration in the world. It’s one of the, let’s say, the foundations of the Brazilian state is basically the large states monoculture and slavery, slave work. And those foundations are still a very strong heritage that we have in Brazil. A lot of people with no land, a very high land concentration, structural racism, all of this comes from I mean, our vocation for exporting commodities and all of this comes from this from nations of the Brazilian state.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has given new license to the killing of Indigenous people in Brazil. Before he came to power in 2019, it wasn’t clear what he wanted to build, but he knew exactly who and what he wanted to destroy: the Indigenous people and the Amazon rainforest, respectively. “Bolsonaro attacked a woman first, the land, our mother,” the Indigenous leader Célia Xakriabá told me. “We have no choice but to fight back.” Since becoming president, the former Army captain, who served under the country’s last military dictator, has led an unprecedented war against the environment and the people protecting it. A slew of anti-Indigenous legislation, escalated violence against and assassinations of Indigenous land defenders, and the COVID-19 pandemic have threatened the existence of Brazil’s original people, the Amazon rainforest, and the future of the planet.
Bolsonaro made threats he couldn’t carry out about replacing the Health Minister and reopening commerce. Now he is isolated and everyone has turned on him, as General Villas Boas admits. He’s been reduced to impotence. It remains to be seen how he and his children will react. We now have a kind of prime minister in General Braga Netto, who has taken on the role of coordinator of all ministries and, especially, health policy, to prevent Bolsonaro from committing any more acts of madness. The next stage is the government armoring itself to prevent the PT from winning the 2022 presidential elections. This is the next goal.
Right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro has just served his first 400 days as President of the largest, most populous and economically powerful nation in Latin America, Brazil. It has turned out to be enough time to impose a regression that reaches all, absolutely all, aspects of my country. There is not a single sector, a single segment, which has not been reached by his devastating fury.