Brazilian Politics and the Rise of the Far-RightRoundup
tags: fascism, Brazil, far-right
Born and raised in Sao Paulo, Daniela Gomes is a Ph.D. Candidate in African & African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. As an activist in the Afro-Brazilian and Diasporic Movement, she has been using her work to connect people in the African Diaspora. The focus of her efforts is to build international bridges to fight against racism around the globe. Follow her on Twitter @danielagomesjor.
On October 28, Brazil elected its 38th President, Jair Bolsonaro, making a core of his 57 million supporters extremely happy while more than 90 million Brazilian citizens face his election with concern about the country’s future. Embracing extreme, far-right opinions, Bolsonaro received the highest percentage of votes since president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s second mandate in 2006 and his election platform was responsible for dividing the country even more than the highly charged finals of a national soccer championship.
Bolsonaro’s reactionary politics did not start with the presidential campaign. He served as a Congressman representing the state of Rio de Janeiro for more than three decades defending the same traditionalist and exclusionary ideas. A military captain in the reserve, his political achievements included only two approved projects, the inclusion of his sons in the political life, and a claim for the return of the military dictatorship, which according to him was the golden age of Brazilian history. For years, his controversial statements made him a joke not only among politicians, but also in the media. Indeed, he often served as the basis of laughs in comedy shows, most often cast as a freak defending absurd ideas. Nobody then, thought of him as a future contender for president.
But Bolsonaro’s January 1 inauguration shows he is no longer a laughing matter. His movement from the margins of Brazilian politics to the mainstream resulted from the transformation of the nation’s political climate, especially in the wake of corruption accusations involving the Partido dos Trabalhadores and former President Dilma Roussef. Once the media started a campaign especially after Roussef’s second mandate, against the Partido dos Trabalhadores and in favor of the opposition (at the moment represented by the candidate Aecio Neves), Bolsonaro began to move from political obscurity and comedic absurdity to the political mainstream.
As part of a wave of the expansion of far-right politics worldwide, Bolsonaro’s extremely conservative position earned him a legion of voters that follows him unquestioningly. Considering the new leader positionality, defining the current political moment of the country is difficult and anticipating its future bleak. Modern Brazilian democracy is relatively new. From 1964 to 1985, Brazil was under a military dictatorship and although the democratic opening started in the late 1970s, culminating in the process of the “Diretas Ja,” in the middle of the 1980s, when the dictatorship ended, Brazil didn’t hold its first direct presidential elections until 1989. In addition, when observing the re-elections that gave second rounds to different parties in the past years, Bolsonaro is only the sixth elected president of Brazil since the end of the dictatorship. His backward position is certainly a threat for a young democracy, one that only began to make baby steps toward a robust democratic tradition in the 1980s.
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