Brazil’s Election: the Alarming Rise of Bolsonaro and the Far Right

By Fiona Edwards, Walthamstow CLP

A far right extremist is tipped to become the next President of Latin America’s largest and most populous country. Brazil’s leading pollsters are predicting that Jair Bolsonaro will win in the final round of the Presidential election taking place this weekend, on Sunday 28 October. The prospect of a victory for Bolsonaro poses a grave threat to human rights and democracy in Brazil and would provide a tremendous boost to far right forces across the world.

Bolsonaro’s election campaign: far right violence, fake news and fraud  

Bolsonaro’s election campaign has encouraged his supporters to unleash a violent, murderous wave of hate crime across the country. Women, LGBT people, black people, trade unionists, supporters of left wing political parties and journalists have all been targeted. Amongst the vast numbers of people attacked, Romualdo Rosairo Da Costa was murdered after he proclaimed his support for the Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad in a bar just a few hours after the first round of voting earlier this month. In another incident a woman carrying an LGBT flag and wearing an anti-Bolsonaro t-shirt had a swastika carved into her skin by a gang of men. More than 60 journalists have been physically attacked “in a political, partisan and electoral context.”

Bolsonaro’s election campaign has also unleashed a tsunami of fake news, lies and slander directed against the left wing Presidential candidate Haddad and his running mate Manuela D’Avila. This sophisticated social media campaign, clearly financed by forces among the Brazilian capitalists and international forces linked to them, is believed to have played a critical role in boosting Bolsonaro’s support – he was polling around 24% in early September, only to secure 46% a month later in the first round of the election on Sunday 7 October.

In August, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo announced that US President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon would be an adviser to Bolsonaro’s Presidential campaign. Bannon’s help was to “come in the form of giving internet tips, analysis, interpreting data, that type of stuff.”

Brian Mier, co-editor of the website ‘Brasil Wire’ believes that, under the guidance of Steve Bannon, “thousands and thousands” of WhatsApp groups were used to slander the left candidate. For example Bolsonaro supporters “targeted the Evangelical community which is 30% of the Brazilian population with a bombardment of lies about things like – if Haddad is elected the government’s going to start forcing children to become homosexuals. They spread a fake photo-shopped photo of Manuela D’Avila, the Vice President candidate, with a t-shirt that said “Jesus is a transvestite” on it.”

Last week, on Thursday 18 October, Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s leading newspapers, exposed the illegal and undemocratic character of Bolsonaro’s enormous campaign of fake news. It was revealed that businesses were spending millions of dollars to inundate Brazilian voters with false information by simultaneously sending off hundreds of millions of WhatsApp messages. This practice is prohibited by electoral law in Brazil.

The political persecution of the left  

Systematic dirty tactics have also been used to undermine the left in this election. In the first place, Brazil’s conservative, politically motivated judiciary has persecuted the country’s most popular politician, Lula da Silva of the Workers Party. Lula, who was President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010, was imprisoned in April of this year on trumped up charges of corruption. Up until September, when Brazil’s Electoral Court ruled that he was not allowed to stand in the election, Lula was by far the favourite to win, polling approximately 40% whilst his nearest rival Bolsonaro was only on 24%.

A further blow to the left came just 11 days before the first round of polling when the Federal Supreme Court ruled that 3.3 million registered voters, concentrated in areas where support for the left is strong in the North East of the country, would not be allowed to participate in the election.

If Lula had have been allowed to stand he would most likely have become the next President – instead Brazil is confronted with the rise of the far right. Lula’s popularity emanates from his incredible record of bringing tens of millions of people out of poverty during his time in office.

A high stakes election

If Bolsonaro wins on Sunday, the consequences will be disastrous for Brazil, Latin America and the world.

He is proposing an ultra neo-liberal economic policy which is unlikely to restore growth to Brazil’s faltering economy and will involve a drastic reduction in living standards for the Brazilian people. He is also proposing a harsh ‘law and order’ agenda which includes giving police further powers to shoot and kill even more people than they already do – in 2016 the number of people killed by the police in Brazil was 4,224 and 76% of the victims were black.

Bolsonaro has also threatened to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Change Accord and open up the rainforest to agro-business – a move that would derail efforts to stop runaway climate change.

The rise of the extreme right in Brazil and the tide of bigotry, violence and subversion of democracy that is accompanying it should alarm progressive people across the world. The people of Brazil need international solidarity and support in the face of such threats. This week a new campaign has been launched to support human rights, democracy and social progress in Brazil. Sign up to the Brazil Solidarity Initiative to find out how you can stand up to the dangerous rise of Jair Bolsonaro and the far right in Brazil.

Find out more about the Brazil Solidarity Initiative at brazilsolidarity.co.uk and register for their launch meeting with Richard Burgon MP, Chris Williamson MP on November 25 at http://bit.ly/brazilaftertheelections