All over the world, many must be asking how could it be that Brazil - a country known for its immense cultural diversity, and the joy and happiness of its people - be witnessing an increasingly alarming wave of fascism, that has, as its main driver, the candidacy for the Presidency of Jair Messias Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro's candidacy has emerged amongst us as an example of the worst of human nature. A recent speech, delivered by him and broadcast on the big screen to the crowd gathered in the heart of Sao Paulo, was an astonishing portrait of the level of intolerance and violence he is preaching: “Let's carry out a cleansing never seen in the history of this country,” he urged. And of his political opponents, he simply said: asserted: “You leave or you go to jail”.
Children are making gun hand signs (a sort of gesture that has, believe it or not, become a slogan of the Bolsonaro candidacy). And inside Churches, before the image of Christ, people of faith can be seen making the same gesture, smiling and proud. For the first time in our history, Evangelical leaders and Catholics have united around a candidate that praises torture and preaches the death of opponents.
On the streets too, aggression is growing. Soon after the results of the first run, the activist, educator and leading Capoeira Master, Moa do Katendê, was stabbed eleven times - murdered by a Jair Bolsonaro voter who was displeased over Moa's criticisms of his candidate. There are also daily reports of violence against Fernando Haddad voters. (Haddad is the Left Wing’s Presidential Candidate and thus Bolsonaro’s main opponent in the campaign.)
Demonising the Left
The process of demonising the left started soon after the tenure of ex-President Lula in his first term, in 2003. In 2005, we had the Mensalão scandal, (where the left wing workers party was accused of paying a monthly allowance to deputies for the approval of government projects) which reached the Supreme Federal Court. Then followed scandals pertaining to money laundering and corruption that were attributed - without evidence - to Federal Government. None of these scandals were circumscribed to Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or the Workers Party; they always involved various parties, from both incumbent and opposition, however, all the media has continuously stigmatized PT, as did the highly biased Judiciary.
In 2013, under Dilma Rousseff's government, (following the Arab Spring), we had massive movements occupying the streets all over the country. There was intense police repression with the media ‘normalizing’ all the bizarre police oppressions to the right to demonstrate. In this wave of protest, the Anti-Terrorism law was approved to facilitate further repression during upcoming world events including the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 2016.
In 2014, a polarised and tough election gave a second, close victory to Dilma. In 2015, we witnessed, once again, the phenomenon of mass street demonstrations, however this time, the police did not repress. Far -right and non-partisan parties such as the Moviment Brasil Livre, (MBL) (Free Brasil Movement) and Vem Pra Rua (Take To The Streets emerged, having at their helm uneducated youths evincing poor arguments and political formation; calling themselves liberal whilst advocating a discourse that is, in essence, pure hatred of the left. There also emerged groups that demanded the return of a military dictatorship.
In December 2015, the then President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, currently imprisoned and condemned for the crimes of conspiracy, money laundering, active and passive corruption, opens the process of impeachment against the President, Dilma Rousseff, having as a controversial basis ‘fiscal pedalling’ – roughly translated as the fiddling or tampering of government accounts.
A shameful era
In April 2016, Dilma was removed from office by a bench formed of politicians involved in a variety of fraud cases, corruption and other crimes, but who spoke publicly in favour of family and the importance of morals. The then deputy, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, justified his vote for the impeachment, saluting an army colonel who had been one of the biggest torturers of the military dictatorship; the abject Colonal Brilhante Ulstra.
It was the dawning of a sombre and shameful era knocking at our doorstep.
With the exit of president Dilma, her vice-president, Michel Temer, formed a government made up of old allies and parties that had opposed Dilma's government. The PSDB, a party (defeated in the ballots in 2014), of the candidate and today defendant, Aecio Neves, assumed strategic briefs in the Ministries of External Affairs, Planning and Justice. Swiftly, the Government implemented the reforms, named by Temer as a “Bridge for the Future”.
Scandalous labour and economic reforms took rights away from both workers and the retired; the Government approved the Constitutional 55 Amendment Project (Projecto de Amenda Constitutional 55) - called by the opposition “PEC do Fim do Mundo” (PEC of the End of the World), as the amendment simply freezes public investments for 20 years compromising areas of the utmost importance, such as health, education, basic sanitation and public safety in the name of returned favours among the BBB (Bible, Bull and Bullet) bench, that is the rural, evangelical economical bench.
On the 31st of August 2016, president Dilma - who had been elected in 2014 with 54 million votes - was finally stopped from finishing her mandate, by a weak denunciation and an unprecedented crime of ‘fiscal pedalling’.
The ghost of conservatism
The municipal elections two months later, brought the great defeat of the left-wing parties. Namely, PT. In Rio de Janeiro, the evangelical pastor Marcelo Crivella, nephew of the owner of the second largest TV network of the country, won the electoral race. In Sao Paulo, the far-right businessman Joao Doria Jr, won (surprisingly) against the then Mayor and current PT Presidential Candidate, Fernando Haddad. The ghost of conservatism hovered over Brazil.
In 2017, Jair Messias Bolsonaro launched his candidacy, taking advantage of the accusations of corruption within the major parties that opposed workers' parties. Aecia Neves, who would have been a natural candidate for the Right, was caught in a phone operation requesting R$2,000,000 from a major food industry businessman. A prison term was decreed, with his sister and cousin. Other famous politicians, who would also have been candidates for the Right, gradually lost credibility as their names appeared in the media alongside allegations of involvement in various scandals.
It was in this limbo of immense disbelief that Jair Bolsonaro was forged. With the detention of former President Lula (then leader in the polls), the path to right-wing populism presented itself.
Now, with today’s second Presidential election run, the atmosphere here in Brazil is toxic, aggressive and violent with reports of families fragmented due to political divisions.
Just the week before last, we had two scandals: a video of Jair Bolsonaro's son appeared on social media stating that the Supreme Court of the country could be shut down by a corporal and a soldier. Before that, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo alleged that businessmen were illegally financing a dirty online campaign, distributing, via WhatsApp, fake news against the workers' party candidate.
The Brazilian population is divided: The International community is surprised by the promises of a leader in the polls who has already declared that, when he takes over, “the Indians will not have another centimetre of land”.
“Where there's Indigenous land, there's wealth underneath it,” Bolsanaro has said. “We have to change that. You can be sure, that when I get there, there will not be any money for NGOs. If it is up to me, every citizen will have firearms in their home”.
The attack on Indigenous people also comes from the Vice Presidential Candidate, General Mourao, who has stated that the “Brazilian inherited the indolence of the native and the trickery of the African”.
Putting the Amazon at risk
Having as an ally the ruralist bench, Bolsonaro has already promised to merge the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry for the Environment, in other words, the Environment will be under the management of the farming sector, putting the Amazon forest and the people who reside there at risk.
The IBAMA, Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente (Brazilian Institute for the Environment), already suffered various disqualifying attacks from Bolsonaro and people connected to his candidacy, among these attacks the assertion of “wanting to harm those who want to produce”. FUNAI, Fundacao Nacional do Indio (National Foundation of the Indigenous), is another institution that is at risk of extinction.
Aside from the Indigenous nations, the Quilombola communities also risk losing their land. In a talk delivered in an Israeli club in Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro declared that in his government won't assign “one centimetre” of land to the Quilombola. He even compared the inhabitants of the quilombo to cattle, stating that “the lightest Quilombola weighed seven 'arrobas' (a unit of weight equivalent to 15Kg, used for cattle)”
He also threatened social movements, stating that he will classify as terrorists the Movimento Sem Terra, Movement of the Landless (MSAT) and the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Tecto (Movement for the Homeless Workers). Aside from being a self-proclaimed enemy of the LGBT community, he has also made statements such as “If your son displays daintiness (term used is frescura in a derogatory way to denote homosexual traits -ed), trounce him to become a man!” And, “If you see two men kissing on the street, I will trounce them.” Unsurprisingly, Bolsanaro has gone on record in interviews declaring having himself as “homophobic and proud.”
Feminism is another target of Bolsonaro's attacks: “A woman should be paid less than a man because she gets pregnant”, he has said. Adding: “I have had four kids. Three sons and the fourth time, I got weak and a woman came out”. Moreover, when debating a federal deputy for PT, he said, on camera, he would not rape her because “she was very ugly”.
This is the candidate that wants to govern Brazil.
The election takes place on Sunday.
Julio Barroso is an activist and cultural producer. He has worked in the musical area since 1990, specialising in stage direction - he produced several events around the city such as Brasilidade in 2010, Viradão Carioca, Festival Promessas Rede Globo, Festival Dawn against Reduction, MIMO - International Music Show in Olinda among others. He has participated in various cultural occupations around the city such as Occupy Lapa, O Passeio Publico, Baile Black Bom da Pedra do Sal and Occupy MinC Rio de Janeiro. He is currently a contributing journalist in the newspaper Favela News Agency - AN.
*This article is a translation of the original piece which was written in Portuguese
Photography by André Mantelli