Last week, Brazil held the first round of its general election which resulted in the far-right candidate and former army officer Jair Bolsonaro winning 46% of the popular vote far exceeding polling expectations. Bolsonaro is infamous in Brazil for his extreme right rhetoric on social issues including homosexuality claiming “I would be incapable of loving a gay son,” and has defended the beating of gay children. He is a firm believer in neo-liberalism, the tightening of relations with the United States and Israel and is an ardent opponent of secularism. His success is a clearly a worrying development for the Brazilian left.
Recent political occurrences in Brazil have been characterised by left-wing vs right-wing violence comparable to other countries around the world today. Earlier in the year, the Socialist and Liberty Party councillor Marielle Franco was assassinated on the streets of Rio while Bolsonaro himself was stabbed at a recent rally.
Last week’s election results have also fuelled violence with a Bolsonaro supporter being run over by a university professor and Bolsonaro supporters have reportedly roamed the streets seeking “undesirables”, on one occasion assaulting and marking a woman with a swastika as she was seen wearing an anti-Bolsonaro shirt.
Bolsonaro has been compared to Trump but in reality, he represents a deep long simmering fascism held in South America. He is the modern-day incarnation of General Pinochet, a product of the American backed death squads of the 60’s and 70’, hunting down and murdering suspected communists.
He is a political face of Operation Condor, the US backed genocide of leftists across South America that started in 1975. Proof of this can be found in his views on the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from the 60’s until the 80’s which he calls a “glorious” period of Brazilian history.
During former president Rousseff’s impeachment vote he dedicated his vote to her torturer and agent of the dictatorship Colonel Brilhante Ustra. Bolsonaro, rather than being seen as the global south’s answer to Trump and the European far right, should be seen as the reincarnation of South American reactionary political forces.
Bolsonaro also represents a fundamental shift in Brazilian populism, rejecting the protectionist and corporatist economics of Getúlio Vargas and the Integralists in favour of free market deregulation. Thus, Bolsonaro can be seen as a direct answer to the South American ‘pink wave’ of the last decade by the forces of finance capital. This reactionary force can similarly be seen today in Venezuela and Nicaragua where both countries socialist governments are fighting militant protestors, seeking to overthrow their countries ruling parties in a way similar to the “Euromaidan” uprising in Ukraine, 4 years ago.
Bolsonaro isn’t just part of a global trend in the upsurge of far-right activity, he is a modern representative of the brutal military dictatorships of the past. He and his supporters have made no qualms about their goals. Bolsonaro in 1998 stated that the Pinochet regime “should have killed more people.” His victory in the second round later this month would see not only the reversal of the policies enacted by the Workers Party, it would see the most aggressive wave of counter-revolution since the Contras.