Brazil takes guard against Bol­sonaro

Far-right fron­trun­ner in­spires protests ahead of Sun­day’s elec­tion

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Dom Phillips Rio de Janeiro

The home­com­ing of Brazil’s far­right pres­i­den­tial fron­trun­ner Jair Bol­sonaro from hos­pi­tal was up­staged last week­end by huge demon­stra­tions as con­cerns over his au­thor­i­tar­ian ten­den­cies grew.

Bol­sonaro flew from São Paulo to his home in Rio de Janeiro last Satur­day, three weeks after be­ing stabbed dur­ing cam­paign­ing, while tens of thou­sands of women filled the streets in cities across Brazil to protest against his ex­trem­ist po­si­tions ahead of the 7 Oc­to­ber elec­tion.

The G1 news site re­ported anti-Bol­sonaro protests in all Brazil’s 27 states grew out of a Face­book group called Women United Against Bol­sonaro, which nearly 4 mil­lion peo­ple have joined. Pro-Bol­sonaro demon­stra­tions took place in 16 states, the site said. The pi­auí mag­a­zine web­site called the demon­stra­tions “his­toric” and printed a photo of an enor­mous crowd in São Paulo that or­gan­is­ers claimed half a mil­lion at­tended, though po­lice did not pro­vide an es­ti­mate.

In Rio the huge crowds that filled the city cen­tre were no­table for their di­ver­sity – with women of all ages, many of whom had brought chil­dren, male and LGBT demon­stra­tors, chant­ing “not him”, an anti-Bol­sonaro hash­tag that has be­come a cam­paign slo­gan shared by celebri­ties.

Many demon­stra­tors ex­pressed con­cerns over Bol­sonaro’s dec­la­ra­tion in a tele­vi­sion interview last Fri­day that he would not ac­cept any elec­tion re­sult he did not win be­cause of his en­dorse­ment of the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship that ran Brazil for two decades.

Flavia Car­valho, 40, a civil ser­vant, car­ried a “not him” ban­ner de­signed around an Adolf Hitler car­toon. “He is preach­ing fas­cism,” she said. Oth­ers said they were protest­ing against the sex­ist, racist and ho­mo­pho­bic views Bol­sonaro has ex­pressed.

“He is sex­ist. He is misog­y­nist. He is racist,” said Ana Paulo Gonçalves, 24, a teacher. “He wants to go back to the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship,” said her sis­ter Chris­tine, 29, a de­signer.

Bol­sonaro, a former army cap­tain and vet­eran law­maker, cur­rently leads polling for a first-round vote. Run­ning sec­ond is Fer­nando Had­dad, a former mayor of São Paulo who took the place of for­mi­da­bly pop­u­lar former pres­i­dent Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Silva when Lula’s can­di­dacy was barred; he is in prison after be­ing con­victed for cor­rup­tion. Bol­sonaro and Had­dad are ex­pected to face off in a run-off vote on 28 Oc­to­ber.

Mak­ing adept use of What­sApp and so­cial me­dia, Bol­sonaro has built sup­port across Brazil, at­tack­ing Lula’s Work­ers’ party for its in­volve­ment in a huge graft scheme and es­pous­ing a hard­line ap­proach to law and or­der. His views have res­onated with Brazil­ians an­gry and fear­ful over en­demic cor­rup­tion and ris­ing vi­o­lent crime. Sup­port­ers stage drive-by demon­stra­tions, rac­ing through towns across Brazil in con­voys of cars and mo­tor­bikes, wav­ing flags and blast­ing horns.

The di­vi­sions Bol­sonaro pro­vokes were ev­i­dent in a video of him board­ing last Satur­day’s flight from São Paulo. While some pas­sen­gers re­galed him with chants of “leg­end”, oth­ers yelled “fas­cist” and “not him”.

In the TV interview Bol­sonaro sug­gested that Brazil’s armed forces could in­ter­vene if his main ri­vals, the left­ist Work­ers’ party, “com­mit­ted a foul” in the elec­tion.

“I don’t ac­cept an elec­tion that is not me be­ing elected,” Bol­sonaro told re­porter José Datena, adding that Brazil’s elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem could be de­frauded by the Work­ers’ party, but pro­vid­ing no ev­i­dence.

Bol­sonaro en­joys wide­spread sup­port among po­lice and the mil­i­tary. His vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Gen Hamil­ton Mourão, un­nerved Brazil­ians re­cently when he said in a sit­u­a­tion of “an­ar­chy”, a pres­i­dent could de­clare an “auto-coup”. Both men praise the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship that ran Brazil from 1964-1985, tor­tur­ing and ex­e­cut­ing op­po­nents.

“I lived [dur­ing] this phase,” said Maria do Carmo, mo, 84, who was protest­ing in Rio and d saw rel­a­tives im­pris­oned by the mil­i­tary regime. “It was ter­ri­ble.”

Last Sun­day, ay, the Folha de S.Paulo news­pa­per ws­pa­per called on both sides es to make a com­mit­ment nt to democ­racy, ac­cus­ing g Bol­sonaro of “stim­u­lat­ing g para­noias of ma­nip­u­la­tion” tion” and crit­i­cis­ing the he Work­ers’ party for its ts at­tacks on the jus­tice e sys­tem for Lula’s im­pris­on­ment it calls s po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. ted.

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