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© 2017 The Strand Magazine

#EleNão; or The Fight Against the Rise of Fascism in Brazil

October 24, 2018

Brazilian women protesting in front of the Brazilian Embassy in London against fascism and candidate Bolsonaro

 

Ever since the impeachment of the Worker’s Party’s (Partido dos Trabalhadores - PT) president Dilma Rousseff in 2016, the political atmosphere in Brazil has been in a state limbo, leading the Brazilian population to live in chaos and confusion. Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato), a money laundering investigation into state-owned oil company PetroBras, which investigated 232 politicians for corruption, was arguably the pitfall for Rousseff and the PT in the public and media’s eye. The investigation, which led to the arrest of the previous president Lula and to the impeachment of Rousseff, paved the way for fascism to enter the political sphere in Brazil once again: a surge of anti-PT sentiments spread across the nation and, accordingly, a significant rise in popularity for far-right candidates ensued, such as for the actual presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. The second round of the election, planned on this Sunday, is quite worrying. 

 

Bolsonaro’s popularity with the Brazilian public is undeniable: with 46% of votes in the first round of the election, he was a mere 5% of votes away from becoming the next Brazilian president without the need for a second round. But does that mean that the 49 million Brazilians who voted for him share the same fascist, homophobic, racist and misogynistic feelings as their candidate? Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters are simply just scared and vulnerable to all of the ‘fake news’ surrounding his campaign, such as the gay kit (Kit-Gay), which Bolsonaro claimed on live TV to be a measure that the PT wanted to implement in primary schools in order to ‘turn children gay’. The Brazilian government recently unveiled Bolsonaro’s $12 million disinformation campaign, a high criminal offence named ‘Caixa 2’, in which he hired a Brazilian marketing company to spread deceitful messages and articles about him on social media outlets, especially WhatsApp, as it is the most popular means of communication in Brazil. A disinformation campaign that seems unprecedented in its aggressiveness and moral violence.

 

Phrases such as the one above – ‘Nazi Brazil!’, as well as nazi symbolism and anti-LGBT phrases have been found all over the country on the lead up to the elections

 

Many have been persuaded by one of Bolsonaro’s individual beliefs and have isolated a certain viewpoint to justify their vote: he has the support of the Christian churches in Brazil, which account for nearly 87% of the Brazilian population (and which in turn support his anti-abortion and anti-LGBT views) and the support of people who are scared of the rampant and rising violence in Brazil, which believe Bolsonaro’s pro-gun beliefs to be a solution, as transcribed in his ‘a good criminal is a dead criminal’ (bandido bom é bandido morto) principle, a maxim which suggests that ‘good citizens’ should be able to take matters into their own hands and kill criminals by themselves. Bolsonaro also has an ultimate weapon to turn people away from his opponent Hadad: a right-wing public that claims that Brazil will turn into a communist state in a process of  ‘Venezualisation’ in case of Haddad’s election. What is undeniably consequent in the voter's choice, finally, is the ‘anyone-but-PT’ movement among right-wing Brazilians, due notably to the numerous corruption scandals the PT has faced recently. 

 

On a more general note, he has the astounding support of the white middle class for his pro-meritocracy/anti-quotas and anti-PT views, as previous PT candidates such as Brazil’s most popular president, Lula Rousseff, worked mostly for the working class Brazilians. Lula created programmes such as Bolsa Familiaand ENEM, which helped millions of poverty-stricken Brazilians to obtain shelter and food, as well as access to university and good careers which were, before then, reserved for the Brazilian white upper class. A resurgence of elitism and exclusivism, in short. 

 

Unfortunately, all of these voters, which have their particular reasons to vote for him, have chosen to ignore his overall image and what he actually stands for, to create a picture of the ‘Legend’ (‘Mito’, as Bolsonaro supporters call him) in their minds to fit their own personal ideals and objectives, ignoring the fact that they are in reality participating in the positioning a fascist in the highest position of political power in Brazil. There is an outstanding majority which does indeed sympathise with all of the same views which have led Bolsonaro to be labelled as a ‘nazi’ or the ‘Brazilian Donald Trump’ by major institutions, such as The New York Times

 

Ever since the beginning of the presidential campaigns, hate crime has seen a major increase in Brazil, with hateful messages such as ‘Brazil Nazista!’ (Nazi Brazil!’) found in streets, university halls and public bathrooms, people of colour and LGBTQ+ suffering physical and mental abuse, and often being murdered, as well as left-wing supporters being attacked for not supporting Bolsonaro – such as the woman in the picture below, who had her stomach carved with a swastika for wearing a ‘#EleNão’ (#NotHim) t-shirt. 

 

The 19-year-old woman was also carrying a LGBT flag and an anti-Bolsonaro sticker during the attack in Porto Alegre

 

Most famously, the political assassination of Afro-Brazilian activist Marielle Francohas come as a shock to many, but as a political message to all. Marielle stands for everything the far-right backing Bolsonaro wants to destroy: as the opening line of her website says, “My name is Marielle Franco. I am a woman, I am black, I am a mother and I am a child of the Maré favela.” She showed the Brazilian population that a black woman from the favela can become a successful politician, and by starting many movements against racism, misogyny and xenophobia in Brazil, she was the perfect target for them to destroy. The symbol Marielle stands for is, however, still prevalent in feminist and left-wing circles in Brazil, and she continues to be an important figure in Brazilian popular culture, with many using her famous motto ‘stop killing us!’ (us being people of colour and working class Brazilians) in their protests posts and joining the Marielle, presente and Somos todos Marielle (‘We are all Marielle’) campaigns. The hatred towards her is still prevalent, however, as two Bolsonaro supporters have shown by destroying the road sign for ‘Rua Marielle Franco’ earlier last month and as seen as well with some of Bolsonaro supporters that have used her as an example of what will happen to ‘the rest’. 

 

Daniel Silveira and Rodrigo Amorim, pictured above, are not simply Bolsonaro supporters: they have both also been elected Federal Deputy and Deputy of the State of Rio, respectively

 

The dark cloud of fascism has been slowly looming over Brazil and the fact that a candidate who supports the return of the military dictatorship in Brazil, which killed and tortured millions, tells a woman that he would not sexually assault her because she’s ‘too ugly’ and ‘doesn’t deserve it’, calls the entire indigenous population of Brazil ‘parasites’ and Afro-Brazilians ‘lazy’, labels the whole of Africa and the Middle East as the ‘scum of humanity’ who need to be ‘taken care of by the army’ and says that his own daughter was conceived in a ‘moment of weakness’ after fathering four sons, whom he said he would happily kill himself if they ever come out as gay or date a woman of colour, is not just troubling. It’s serious proof that fascism and Nazism is back in Brazil, and in full force. 

 

To vote for Bolsonaro and to support him is to support and legitimate the assault and murder of millions of people: especially those who are poor, part of the LGBT+ community, women and people of colour. Voting for PT candidate Haddad now does not mean one is left-wing or a Petista, but it means that one is voting against fascism, racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia.  

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