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Jair Bolsonaro’s Southern Strategy

The authoritarian leaders taking power around the world share a vocabulary of intolerance, insult, and menace. Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected President of Brazil on promises to end crime, right the economy, and “make Brazil great,” has spent his career gleefully offending women, black people, environmentalists, and gays. “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son,” he has said. “I would prefer that my son die in an accident than show up with some guy with a mustache.” As a national legislator, he declared one political rival, Maria do Rosário, “not worth raping.” Immigrants are “scum.” The United Nations is “a bunch of communists.” He supports the torture of drug dealers, the use of firing squads, and the empowerment of a hyper-aggressive police force. “A policeman who doesn’t kill,” he has said, “isn’t a policeman.”

On New Year’s Day, Bolsonaro was inaugurated in the capital city of Brasília. Standing in the back of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith convertible, he waved at crowds of supporters, and they shouted back, “The captain has arrived!” “The legend!” Bodyguards trotted alongside the car, flanked by uniformed cavalrymen on elegant white horses. Bolsonaro is sixty-four, tall and slim, with sharply parted dark hair and heroically bushy eyebrows. His third wife, Michelle, stood next to him, waving at the masses.

After the inaugural ceremony, Bolsonaro gave a speech outside Planalto, the Presidential palace; huge video screens magnified his image for tens of thousands of supporters. Many wore Brazilian flags draped over their shoulders and T-shirts featuring the outline of Bolsonaro’s face, in the style of the movie poster for “The Godfather.” At the ceremony, Bolsonaro had spoken broadly of the need to “unite the people.” Now, addressing his most fervent supporters, he could relax. He said that he had come to free them from the scourge of socialism—an allusion to his left-leaning predecessors Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, who had governed from 2003 to 2016. “Our flag will never be red,” he said. “It will be red only if we need to bleed over it.” The crowd took up a chant: “Never red!”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/04/01/jair-bolsonaros-southern-strategy

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Posted by on April 19, 2019 in Reportages, South America

 

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Bolsonaro’s Brazil

The teratology of the contemporary political imagination – plentiful enough: Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński, ogres galore – has acquired a new monster. Rising above the ruck, the president-elect of Brazil has extolled his country’s most notorious torturer; declared that its military dictatorship should have shot thirty thousand opponents; told a congresswoman she was too ugly to merit raping; announced he would rather a son killed in a car accident than gay; declared open season on the Amazon rainforest; not least, on the day after his election, promised followers to rid the land of red riff-raff. Yet for Sérgio Moro, his incoming justice minister saluted worldwide as an epitome of judicial independence and integrity, Jair Bolsonaro is a ‘moderate’.

To all appearances, the verdict of the polls last October was unambiguous: after governing the country for 14 years, the Workers’ Party (PT) has been comprehensively repudiated and its survival may now be in doubt. Lula, the most popular ruler in Brazilian history, has been incarcerated by Moro and awaits further jail sentences. His successor, evicted from office midway through her second term, is a virtual outcast, reduced to a humiliating fourth place in a local Senate race. How has this reversal come about? To what extent was it contingent or at some point a foregone conclusion? What explains the radicalism of the upshot? By comparison with the scale of the upheaval through which Brazil has lived in the last five years, and the gravity of its possible outcome, the histrionics over Brexit in this country and the conniptions over Trump in America are close to much ado about nothing.

Brazilian politics are Italianate in character: intricate and serpentine. But there is little hope of grasping what has befallen the country without some understanding of them. When Lula left office in 2010 – presidents in Brazil are limited to two successive terms, though not barred from subsequent re-election – the economy posted 7.5 per cent growth, poverty had been cut in half, new universities had multiplied, inflation was low, the budget and current account were in surplus and his approval ratings above 80 per cent. To succeed him, Lula picked his chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, in the 1960s a fighter in the underground against the military dictatorship, who had never held or run for electoral office before. With Lula at her side, she coasted to victory with a 56 per cent majority, the first woman to win the presidency. Initially better received by a middle class that detested Lula, for two years she enjoyed quite widespread esteem for a show of calm and competence. But her inheritance was less rosy than it seemed. High commodity prices had underlain Lula’s boom, without altering Brazil’s historically low rates of investment and productivity growth. Virtually as soon as Dilma took office in 2011, they started to fall, bringing growth abruptly down to 1.9 per cent by 2012. In 2013 the US Federal Reserve announced it would stop buying bonds, setting off a so-called ‘taper tantrum’ in capital markets, drawing foreign finance out of Brazil. The balance of payments deteriorated. Inflation picked up. The years of buoyant prosperity were over.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n03/perry-anderson/bolsonaros-brazil

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in South America

 

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In diesem Dorf entscheiden Frauen alles – und die Männer sind zufrieden

Was ist das nur für ein seltsames Dorf? Schon beim Betreten sprinten fröhliche Kinder auf einen zu und rufen: “Willkommen in Noiva do Cordeiro, dürfen wir dich herumführen?” Die Frauen umarmen sich ständig und mit Hingabe. Die Männer reden sanft und leise, anders als sonst in Brasilien. Und im Gemeindesaal hängt nicht das Kreuz Christi oder das Foto des Staatspräsidenten, sondern das einer einfachen alten Frau, der Matriarchin Delina.

Auch die Struktur des Dorfes ist anders. Es gibt keine Plaza mit Rathaus und Kirche, dafür ein Gemeinschaftshaus, in dem alle Bewohner zusammen kochen und spielen. Das Dorf hat keinen Bürgermeister, und die Kirche haben sie in dieser katholischen Gegend kurzerhand abgerissen – “die beste Entscheidung überhaupt”, wie sie finden. Auch der Alltag erscheint anders. Die Kinder gehen nicht in die Krippe, sondern werden reihum von Familien betreut, damit die Mütter arbeiten oder sich ausruhen können. Um die Alten kümmern sich nicht Pfleger, sondern wechselweise Nachbarn. Streitfälle klären die Bewohner nicht vor Gericht, sondern im Kollektiv auf der Theaterbühne am Samstagabend.

In ihrer glückseligen Andersartigkeit wirkt die Gemeinschaft wie eine Sekte. Aber es gibt keine Verbote in Noiva do Cordeiro, keine Hierarchien und Privilegien und – ganz nach den Träumen John Lennons – “no religion, too”. Die Menschen dürfen rauchen und trinken und homosexuell sein und atheistisch, in jeder Beziehung frei.

https://www.stern.de/politik/ausland/brasilien–in-diesem-dorf-entscheiden-frauen-alles—und-die-maenner-sind-zufrieden-8509412.html

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2019 in South America

 

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Jair Bolsonaro’s Victory Echoes Donald Trump’s, with Key Differences

On Sunday night, the ultra-rightist candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the second round of Brazil’s Presidential elections. With fifty-five per cent of the vote, Bolsonaro, a former Army paratrooper who has been in congress for almost thirty years, handily defeated his rival, Fernando Haddad, the former mayor of São Paulo, by a margin of ten percentage points. In his acceptance speech, which he delivered, as has become his custom, from his home via Facebook Live, Bolsonaro promised to “pacify and unify the country” and later, in a gesture to his supporters in Brazil’s burgeoning evangelical community, bowed his head in prayer with a Protestant priest, who wore a Bolsonaro T-shirt.

Bolsonaro’s victory, though not a surprise after his strong lead in the first round of voting, on October 7th, represents a seismic shift in a country that has been governed by the left for most of the past fifteen years—and it further underscores the dramatic rightward trend under way in Latin American politics. A mere six years ago, much of the hemisphere was ruled by a like-minded fraternity of left-of-center leaders that included Hugo Chávez, in Venezuela; Cristina Kirchner, in Argentina; and, in Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the head of the Workers’ Party, or PT. Today, Chávez is dead, replaced by the hapless Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuela is in a state of economic and social collapse; the former President Kirchner is facing a corruption trial; and Lula is in prison after being convicted on corruption charges.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/jair-bolsonaros-victory-echoes-donald-trumps-with-key-differences

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2018 in South America

 

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Welcome to the Jungle

Jean Baudrillard once defined Brazil as “the chlorophyll of our planet”. And yet a land vastly associated worldwide with the soft power of creative joie de vivre has elected a fascist for president.

Brazil is a land torn apart. Former paratrooper Jair Bolsonaro was elected with 55.63 percent of votes. Yet a record 31 million votes were ruled absent or null and void. No less than 46 million Brazilians voted for the Workers’ Party’s candidate, Fernando Haddad; a professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo, one of the crucial megalopolises of the Global South. The key startling fact is that over 76 million Brazilians did not vote for Bolsonaro.

His first speech as president exuded the feeling of a trashy jihad by a fundamentalist sect laced with omnipresent vulgarity and the exhortation of a God-given dictatorship as the path towards a new Brazilian Golden Age.

French-Brazilian sociologist Michael Lowy has described the Bolsonaro phenomenon as “pathological politics on a large scale”.

https://consortiumnews.com/2018/10/29/welcome-to-the-jungle/

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2018 in South America

 

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The Message of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s New President-Elect

Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil on Sunday evening. The far-right candidate received more than 55 percent of valid votes. His opponent, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party, received less than 45 percent. In a country with compulsory voting, almost 29 percent of adults preferred to annul or not cast their ballot.

Across Brazil, city streets echoed with fireworks, shouts, and car horns as preliminary election results came in. Thousands of supporters, many dressed in green and yellow, assembled outside the president-elect’s beach-front residence in Rio de Janeiro. On São Paulo’s main street, Avenida Paulista, police used tear gas to separate Haddad and Bolsonaro voters.

https://theintercept.com/2018/10/28/jair-bolsonaro-elected-president-brazil/

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in South America

 

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In Brasile la democrazia è stata sconfitta alle urne

I brasiliani hanno molti motivi per essere furenti: corruzione, incuria, criminalità… Tuttavia questa collera, cattiva consigliera, li ha spinti tra le braccia di un candidato che difficilmente si può evitare di definire fascista.

Jair Bolsonaro è stato l’uomo giusto al momento giusto, capace di catalizzare questa rivolta elettorale della maggioranza dei brasiliani. Ex ufficiale dell’esercito, ammiratore della dittatura militare che ha governato il Brasile fino al 1985, Bolsonaro ha saputo strumentalizzare l’odio – non c’è un altro termine possibile – nei confronti del Partito dei lavoratori di Lula, l’ex presidente che attualmente si trova in carcere per corruzione.

https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/pierre-haski/2018/10/29/brasile-democrazia-elezioni

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in South America

 

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Roger Waters, Marielle Franco, and the Power of Inspiration in the Face of Darkness and Danger

Last night was emotional and moving in so many ways and it occurred, of all places, at an outdoor Roger Waters stadium concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: four days before this large, beautiful and struggling country, out of desperation, fear and anger, is likely to elect a genuinely menacing monster, and empower his movement in ways that were unthinkable until very recently.

Seven months ago, in the days following the brutal and devastating political assassination of our close friend Marielle Franco, The Independent asked me to write a tribute and an obituary. My first reaction was not to do it because the emotions were still way too raw and that kind of personal, intimate writing isn’t what I feel comfortable doing, especially in a moment as vulnerable and difficult as that.

But then I saw it as an opportunity to process my emotions about Marielle through what I know best and what she was most – writing about political battles and causes and figures of defiance and dissent – and to try to viscerally convey to a foreign audience what made her such a singular force of inspiration. So I wrote a 1,000-word article that was half obituary and half personal reflection.

https://theintercept.com/2018/10/25/roger-waters-marielle-franco-and-the-power-of-inspiration-in-the-face-of-darkness-and-danger/

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in South America

 

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Brazil is set to elect a fascist as president, and business is on board

“Despite misgivings,” reads the headline from Associated Press, “Brazil’s business community begins coalescing around far-right candidate”. Jair Bolsonaro may believe black people should not reproduce, want to expel environmental NGOs from the Amazon and have a record of inciting rape and advocating torture, but that is apparently not a problem for Brazil’s financial elite.

Unless a major reversal takes place in the presidential run-off, Brazil – the world’s ninth largest economy – will become the first major country to vote fascist in the 21st century.

As justification, the bewildered commentators of the liberal centre will point to the Workers Party, whose last leader was impeached for corruption and whose figurehead, former president Lula, is in jail.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/2018/10/brazil-set-elect-fascist-president-and-business-board

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2018 in South America

 

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As Jair Bolsonaro Heads for a Second-Round Vote, Fears Rise Over What’s Next for Brazil

In the hours after Brazil’s far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the first round of the Presidential election, on Sunday, his opponents began circulating a viral meme on social networks. It is a riff on the latest stunt by the artist Banksy, in which a shredder concealed in the frame of one of his paintings destroyed the work immediately after an anonymous bidder had bought it, for more than a million dollars, at an auction at Sotheby’s, in London. In the meme, it is the green, yellow, and blue Brazilian flag, with its slogan “Ordem e Progresso”—Order and Progress—that is shredded.

Bolsonaro, a congressman and former Army captain who has said that he will install a severe law-and-order government and who speaks nostalgically of restoring Brazil’s military dictatorship, took forty-six per cent of the vote, just under the fifty-per-cent minimum required to win outright. He was trailed by Fernando Haddad, who won twenty-nine per cent of the vote for the leftist Workers’ Party, or P.T., as a stand-in candidate for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s charismatic former President, who has been jailed since April on corruption charges and was ineligible to run. The third-place candidate, the center-left veteran Ciro Gomes, garnered a mere 12.5 per cent. Gomes said that he would throw his support behind Haddad in the second-round runoff, scheduled for October 28th, in what he called “a fight for democracy and against Fascism.”

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/as-jair-bolsonaro-heads-for-a-second-round-vote-fears-rise-over-whats-next-for-brazil

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2018 in South America

 

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