Juliano Fiori, Alborada contributing editor and Rio resident, offers his thoughts on today’s presidential election run-off in Brazil that pits the fascist Jair Bolsonaro againt the PT (Workers Party) candidate Fernando Haddad.
It’s the morning of the 28th of October. In a couple of hours, Brazilians will go to the polls for the second round of the presidential election. Undoubtedly, the most important election in Brazil’s recent democratic history.
And why is it the most important election? Well, Brazil’s been going through a profound political and economic crisis in the last few years. But, also, this election represents a battle between democracy and authoritarianism. On the one side, Fernando Haddad, who was minister for education under Lula and was mayor of San Paolo, has been trying to put together a democratic alliance in this second round of the election against his adversary, Jair Bolsonaro.
Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has been a congressman for the last 28 years and although he’s been an irrelevance for much of that time, passing only a couple of projects through Congress, he’s risen in the last few years as a representative – a rather empty representative – of a burgeoning far right movement in Brazil. With few proposals and lots of bluster, he’s presented himself as the anti-system candidate.
Many Brazilians have been suffering in recent years because of the economic crisis and also there’s been a lot of discussion in the media about the corruption scandals that have been revealed in recent years. Much of the media and segments of the judiciary have pinned responsibility for corruption to the Workers’ Party of Fernando Haddad and consequently rejection of the Workers’ Party, or peteismo, has played an important role in this election.
Lula himself was imprisoned earlier this year and he stayed on as candidate for a number of months. Fernando Haddad only became a candidate a few weeks before the first round of the election. We’ll see today whether that strategy has worked out.
There’s been a lot of attention given, including in the international press, to the homophobic, racist and misogynistic statements made by Bolsonaro over not just the last few years, but the last 30 years. And what gives particular violence of these statements and others is Bolsonaro’s association with the years of military rule, of military dictatorship. The people Bolosonaro refers to as national heroes are the people with most blood on their hands from that period: the torturerColonel Brilhante Ustra, and the man who presided over the most repressive years was referred to as the years of lead, General Médici.
In this respect, Bolsonaro probably isn’t a response primarily to the Workers’ Party, but a response to the reformist generals in the latter part of the dictatorship. Bolsonaro has said that he wants to carry out the work that wasn’t done by the military dictatorship. And he’s even said that that involves killing 30,000 people, what Brazil needs is a civil war.
More recently, he’s talked about sending political opponents to the edge of the beach which is idiomatic for killing them. He’s talked about gunning down political opponents. He stood at the roadside handing out grass for people to eat, another idiom for dying in Brazil. And he’s talked about putting opponents either in prison or sending them into exile.
So as we go to vote today, it’s not just a decision between two candidates who represent different democratic projects. The spirit of the torture chamber circulates now in Brazil and the threat of generalised violence permitted by the rhetoric of Bolsonaro is very real.