Miami Herald (Sunday)

Brazil’s right-wing movement persists without Bolsonaro



Brazil’s defeated former president, Jair Bolsonaro, was in Florida this month when his supporters tried — but failed — to overthrow the country’s young democracy. It was a sign that many in Latin America’s largest nation believe so fiercely in his movement that it can persist without its namesake.

Although Bolsonaris­mo appears disoriente­d at the moment, the broader trend will endure. That’s according to academics who study the movement and participan­ts in the trend themselves, from the far-right radicals who stormed the capital to more ordinary Brazilian social conservati­ves. Many feel that leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was such a threat to their country that his victory required the military to prevent him from taking office.

Daniel Bressan, 35, traveled 300 miles from the interior of Parana state to join protesters in the capital, Brasilia. He was taken into custody on Jan. 9, the morning after he and thousands of others invaded Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidenti­al palace.

“Bolsonaro brought the spirit of patriotism and family values back to the people, and now we have to unite to keep fighting,” Bressan, who denies vandalizin­g the buildings, said by phone on Jan. 10 from inside the federal police’s temporary holding center. “From Bolsonaro himself, we don’t expect anything.”

On the campaign trail in 2018, Bolsonaro tapped into outrage sparked by a sprawling corruption investigat­ion into public figures. The seven-term lawmaker cast himself as an outsider to segments of society that felt undeserved­ly sidelined.

Some quietly shared his taboo nostalgia for the military dictatorsh­ip. Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has supported torture and said the regime should have killed even more communists than it did. Other hardcore supporters were drawn to his exaltation of conservati­ve values, his full-throated embrace of Christiani­ty and his push to arm the general public. Bolsonaro became the “symbolic glue” holding these groups together, according to anthropolo­gist Isabela Kalil, coordinato­r of the Extreme Right Observator­y.

“It’s more about how supporters mobilize the image of Bolsonaro than about his actions themselves,” said Kalil. “Those images are independen­t from the figure of Bolsonaro. He controls them partially, but not totally.”

Radicalism deepened at the encampment­s that mushroomed outside military buildings nationwide after Bolsonaro’s loss, with die-hard backers demanding the army intervene to overturn the closest race since the nation’s return to democracy over three decades ago. Bolsonaro had repeatedly characteri­zed

Lula as a thief who would plunge the nation into communism.

Bolsonaro has been virtually invisible since the election, surprising many who expected a show of righteous indignatio­n after months casting doubt on electronic voting machines. While he didn’t concede defeat and requested that millions of ballots be annulled, he also refrained from crying fraud.

Two days before Lula’s inaugurati­on, Bolsonaro went to Florida. A week after the inaugurati­on, without any apparent signal from Bolsonaro or the military, rioters took action. The horde smashed windows, trashed artworks, sprayed fire extinguish­ers and firehoses. Into a wooden table in the Supreme Court, someone carved: “Supreme are the people.”

To the limited extent that Bolsonaro commented on the uprising, it was to say that destroying public property was a step over the line. Many of his supporters were left disappoint­ed.

“Trying to distance himself from what happened causes him to lose his link to the base that coordinate­d these attacks,” said Guilherme Casarões, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university and think tank. “The attack in Brasilia was a shot in the foot and weakens Bolsonaris­mo as a personalis­t, radical movement, its two fundamenta­l characteri­stics.”

Bolsonaro’s party had intended for him to be a leading voice in the opposition, yet it remains unclear when he will return from Florida. Back home, several investigat­ions targeting him could strip him of his ability to run for office.

His far-right allies who were elected to office have the opportunit­y to claim his political spoils for themselves and are vocally defending arrested rioters. Paulo Baía, a sociologis­t and political scientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said he believes that “the term ‘Bolsonaris­mo’ will disappear in coming months,” even as the movement continues onward, diluted among other actors.

Unlike Bolsonaro, U.S. President Donald Trump was present on Jan. 6 just before the attack on the Capitol, urging his followers to the building. He has continued defending their behavior since and tried to make support for the election lies that fueled the attack a defining issue in November’s elections. The Republican party underperfo­rmed, however, rendering Trump’s position within it more precarious than at any time since 2016.

Thomas Carothers, codirector of the Democracy, Conflict and Governance program at the Carnegie Endowment for Internatio­nal Peace, said the U.S. and Brazilian riots have no true precedents elsewhere and it is hard to predict what will happen next, but they may have marked high points for both their populist inspiratio­ns’ political power.

“We need to stop thinking about just Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro isn’t the principal leader,” Alberdan Souza, 28, who administer­s a Telegram channel about geopolitic­s, said by phone from Juazeiro do Norte in Brazil’s poor northeast, where he said he is the rare schoolteac­her to be proudly right-wing. “He is the guy who caused a surge for the right and for the feeling of Brazilian patriotism, but the movement is much bigger than Bolsonaro.”

Radicals have remained engaged on social media, firstly washing their hands of responsibi­lity for the destructio­n by blaming supposed left-wing infiltrato­rs.

And they continue issuing calls to stay mobilized so the military can act, announcing general strikes and the shutdown of refineries and gasoline stations to grind Brazil to a halt, according to Marie Santini, coordinato­r of NetLab, a research group at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro that monitors social media. So far, further aggression


President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired Brazil’s army chief Saturday amid concerns over threats to the country’s democracy following the Jan. 8 uprising in the capital by far-right protesters.

The official website of the Brazilian armed forces said Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda had been removed as head of the army. He was replaced by Gen. Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, who was head of the Southeast Military Command.

In recent weeks, the military has been targeted by Lula after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed through government buildings and destroyed public property. Lula said several times in public that there were definitely people in the army who allowed the rioting to occur. in the real world has been limited. At least 12 transmissi­on towers were attacked, several of which were toppled, according to the energy regulator.

“It isn’t that these calls were successful, but it demonstrat­es that the coup impetus remains strong,” Santini said. “Bolsonaris­tas show no sign that of stopping anytime soon.”

 ?? ERALDO PERES AP ?? Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police as they storm the Planalto Palace, the official workplace of the president, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Jan. 8. With millions of Brazilians believing in the nation’s style of social conservati­sm, many academic are convinced the conservati­ve movement will persist without its namesake.
ERALDO PERES AP Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police as they storm the Planalto Palace, the official workplace of the president, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Jan. 8. With millions of Brazilians believing in the nation’s style of social conservati­sm, many academic are convinced the conservati­ve movement will persist without its namesake.

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