In early November a friend from Brazil wrote:
This is an outburst of a Brazilian friend who is struggling to one day see his country free from fascism. On Sunday the 28th there was elected a new president; he has already begun to carry out various atrocities with the population, the environment, with the Indians, and with the poorest.
His government authorizes people to use guns and to commit crimes against blacks, homosexuals from the Northeast, and the poor. We Brazilians are fighting against this fascist government because we know that if he is not stopped very innocent people will suffer a great barbarity.
He sends a video of an excavator plowing into frail houses while poor families stand helplessly by. He explains:
Here already are some actions after the elections, together with the police expropriating residents from their homes.
In some cities, such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais, the police are already authorized to kill regardless of the approaches taken by the people on the streets.
Some Brazilian institutions will stop encouraging cultural activities and artistic expressions. Some media are being censored. One of the newspapers of great importance is being threatened with closure.
We are living a mixture of insecurity and intolerance.
A Cultural Greenhouse . . . and Other Common Ground
Brazil has long been one of those nations that continually generates cultural ingenuity, mostly in the realm of music, but also in literature and the other arts, and this has left its mark on the world, influencing and inspiring artists everywhere. Much of this richness has sprung from her most oppressed ethnic minorities, just as happened in the history of American folk and popular music. Now we have a new commonality between Brazil and the United States: Brazil now has a rightwing extremist as president. Those who claim that he’s Brazil’s Donald Trump need to be reminded that not even Trump has used such violent, malicious rhetoric or taken the same overt measures to impose military might on his citizenry.
Jair Bolsonaro, Enemy of Gays, Friend of Torturers
Jair Bolsonaro, who assumed power on January 1st as Brazil’s 38th president, is a former army captain and fan of military rule, a defender of torturers, openly supportive of dictatorship, and vocally and maliciously opposed to gays, blacks, and women. He claimed to be the country’s one-way ticket out of corruption, recession, and crime and yet seems ready to set up all the conditions necessary to create hotbeds of lawlessness.
So how did Bolsonaro win 55% of voter support? It’s complicated, but here are a few pieces of the puzzle:
· He presented himself as an outsider, even though he’s been involved in politics for years as a lawmaker (albeit a mostly ignored backbencher), something that appealed to a populace disillusioned by political corruption.
· He garnered a good deal of support from evangelical Christians and agribusinesses.
· It was fairly easy for him to pander to public fears in reaction to the recent rise of violent crime in the country.
· He was successful in uniting seemingly disparate factions of the Brazilian right by making, just as Hitler and Mao did in their times, statements so bombastic and simple they were essentially meaningless.
So Much to Look Forward To
Brazil—and the world—has many things to look forward to under Bolsonaro’s reign. To name just a few:
- Before the election he promised that if elected he would remove Brazil from the Paris climate agreement and speed up development in the Amazon rainforest. (Could efforts to slow global warming possibly take a harder gutpunch?)
- He also promised to solve the country’s crime problems by militarising the police and granting them greater discretion to kill suspects.
- He plans to make gun laws less stringent—a bizarre response to the country’s burgeoning murder rate.
- He promises to be tough on crime when history bears witness that such approaches rarely if ever achieve safe social conditions.
- His opponents present rather a large target. Women for one demonstrated en masse as soon as they discovered he was in the lead during the election. He can’t be happy about that.
All things considered, it looks like any efforts to stem the tide of far-right extremism must now go all-out international, just as the tide itself has gone.
- The letter’s author has been kept anonymous.