On Jan. 1, Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated as the new president of Brazil. Bolsonaro is a former army officer who was expelled, while still a lieutenant, due to his involvement in a group opposing cuts in the military and demanding higher salaries for officers. It was discovered that this group planned to place explosive devices in some barracks to achieve its goals.
Forced to resign, Bolsonaro took advantage of his media notoriety and entered the political field. He became a popular figure with the military and other ultraright opponents of civilian rule, which was re-established in 1985 after more than 20 years of popular struggle against military dictatorship.
It is important to point out that, even though Bolsonaro has been in the public eye for many years, he was never considered a leader or even a powerful politician.
Bolsonaro took advantage of the congressional-judicial coup d’etat that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff — the first woman to hold the office in the history of Brazil — and sent another former president, Luis Ignacio Da Silva, popularly known as Lula, to jail on trumped-up corruption charges.
The coup allowed Bolsonaro and his backers in the Brazilian ruling class to manipulate the dissatisfaction of the Brazilian people with the social-democratic Workers Party of Dilma and Lula, the country’s history of corruption, urban violence, and the decline of the economic power that Brazil had achieved during Lula’s presidency from 2003 to 2011.
As scapegoats for all the country’s problems, the Workers Party and its leadership, with Lula and Dilma at the forefront, became the favorite targets for reactionaries and fascists. To facilitate the attacks by these anti-progressive forces, the media used plenty of their time to talk about corruption in a way that it made it seem that members of the Workers Party and their allies were the only ones to blame.
So, with a massive use of propaganda on social media platforms Facebook and Whatsapp (both owned by U.S. tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg) and the spread of false accusations against his opponent, Workers Party candidate Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro was elected.
U.S. imperialism, looking to turn back the “pink tide” in Latin America inspired by Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, was only too happy to support Bolsonaro’s candidacy. Bolsonaro has promised closer ties with Wall Street and the Pentagon, aiming to turn Brazil into a base for subversion against Venezuela.
‘Change or disappear’ says Bolsonaro
Many of the horrible things that Jair Bolsonaro has done and said are well known, so there is no need to repeat them here. But his election is taken very seriously by those who understand the perils of fascism, right-wing nationalism and neoliberalism.
Bolsonaro and those he represents are a threat to the Indigenous peoples of Brazil; to the Quilombolas — a group of Afro-Descendants that live in small communities in the interior of the country; to LGBTQ2S people, women, poor people and people of color — especially those who live in the slums or in the inner cities.
During the presidential campaign, Bolsonaro made his most frightening statement of all: He said that “minorities” had to change or else they would disappear. By change he meant they have to adhere to the customs, values and expectations of his wealthy, white, male, heterosexual, patriarchal electoral base.
To the LGBTQ2S community, he was saying to become heterosexual and gender-normative; to the Indigenous, to abandon their culture and habits and adopt European ones; to women, to stop complaining about sexual harassment and unequal pay; to poor workers, to stop complaining about low wages as it was better than being unemployed.
This election showed that people who voted for Bolsonaro did so not because he was the best candidate, the most intelligent, nor the most apt to lead the country. They voted for him because they saw a reflection of their own prejudices in him. Bolsonaro and the capitalists who supported him understood this very well, and exploited it all the way to the presidential office.
Although the majority of Brazil’s population is made up of African descendants, the country is still in the grip of racism and has not freed itself from its past. The mentality of slavery and colonialism still lingers in the population, causing trauma to those who suffer the abuses of racism.
The oppressed of Brazil had finally found their voice after the election of Lula, and were demanding to be treated with respect. This was something the rich and powerful refused to take lying down.
Not just the most oppressed groups, but the whole working class is the target of Bolsonaro’s attacks. Now it is urgent for all sectors of the workers and oppressed to unite and fight back — and for people in the U.S. to give them the utmost solidarity and assistance in their struggle.