More vi­o­lence feared as Brazil braces for far-right pres­i­dency

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

SAO PAULO, (Reuters) - Af­ter a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that has seen po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence over­shadow pol­icy de­bate, many Brazil­ians fear at­tacks will con­tinue af­ter the likely elec­tion to­day of toughtalk­ing far-right can­di­date Jair Bol­sonaro.

Bol­sonaro’s sup­port­ers in re­cent weeks have threat­ened to harm Supreme Court jus­tices and phys­i­cally at­tacked jour­nal­ists and op­po­si­tion vot­ers.

There has also been vi­o­lence at­trib­uted to back­ers of Bol­sonaro’s op­po­nent, Fer­nando Had­dad of the Work­ers Party (PT), but to a far lesser ex­tent.

Brazil’s tense po­lit­i­cal cli­mate has been com­pared by some to di­vi­sions in the United States, where sev­eral high-pro­file op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­ceived pipe bombs in the mail this week.

But the sit­u­a­tion in Brazil, is far more per­ilous, an­a­lysts say, be­cause it al­ready suf­fers from ex­treme vi­o­lence, of­ten with­out con­se­quence for per­pe­tra­tors.

Nearly 64,000 mur­ders were reg­is­tered last year, but less than 10 per­cent of homi­cide cases re­sult in charges, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment data.

Bol­sonaro, who main­tains a dou­ble-digit lead in all polls, him­self suf­fered a near-fa­tal stab­bing dur­ing a cam­paign rally last month.

He is still re­cov­er­ing, but the episode only re­in­forced his ag­gres­sive rhetoric, com­bin­ing ver­bal at­tacks on po­lit­i­cal foes with vows to vi­o­lently com­bat crime and pur­sue graft cases against op­po­nents.

“You PT crew, you’ll have the civil and mil­i­tary po­lice with le­gal sup­port to bring the law down on your backs,” he said in a video broad­cast to sup­port­ers at demon­stra­tions last Sun­day. “These delin­quent Reds will be banned from our home­land.”

He says he does not con­done vi­o­lence car­ried out by his sup­port­ers, but an­a­lysts say his daily rants on so­cial me­dia plat­forms are tak­ing a toll.

“Bol­sonaro, be­cause of his rhetoric sup­port­ing vi­o­lence and the ag­gres­sive man­ner he has cam­paigned, has opened the Pan­dora’s box on po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in an al­ready ex­tremely vi­o­lent coun­try,” said Rafael Al­cadi­pani, a pub­lic se­cu­rity ex­pert at the Ge­tulio Var­gas Foun­da­tion univer­sity in Sao Paulo.

“If peo­ple thought Brazil had ex­tremely high lev­els of street vi­o­lence in nor­mal times, imag­ine what it will be like un­der a pres­i­dent who ag­gres­sively pushes vi­o­lence among po­lice and against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents?”

TAR­GET­ING JOUR­NAL­ISTS

Bol­sonaro’s at­tacks on the me­dia over ag­gres­sive re­port­ing that he calls “fake news” have also sent a chill through news­rooms which have dealt with a surge in threats and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.

Brazil­ian in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism group Abraji said since Jan­uary 64 re­porters who cover the cam­paign have been phys­i­cally at­tacked and an­other 82 tar­geted in on­line hate cam­paigns.

By com­par­i­son, 40 U.S.-based jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing all top­ics were phys­i­cally at­tacked dur­ing that pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Press Free­dom Tracker data­base run by over two dozen press free­dom groups.

Bol­sonaro sup­port­ers were blamed for most of the at­tacks in Brazil, Abraji said, while PT back­ers were re­spon­si­ble for a smaller frac­tion.

Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil’s big­gest news­pa­per, has been flooded with threats, in­clud­ing ones tar­get­ing the six-year-old son of a re­porter who un­cov­ered al­leged il­le­gal­i­ties in the Bol­sonaro cam­paign’s use of What­sApp to spread mis­in­for­ma­tion.

Fed­eral po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a re­tired Army colonel who has made re­peated threats against Supreme Court judges in widely shared videos, warn­ing them not to rule against Bol­sonaro. The man is now wear­ing an elec­tronic an­kle bracelet so au­thor­i­ties can mon­i­tor his where­abouts.

Supreme Court Jus­tice Car­men Lu­cia said the at­tacks were a threat against democ­racy, say­ing this week that “ag­gres­sions that tar­get any jus­tice are at­tacks on the en­tire court as an in­sti­tu­tion.”

Jair Bol­sonaro

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