Bolsonaro Destruction as a strategy

Bolsonaro, Destruction as a strategy

The event that probably marked the life of Jair Messias Bolsonaro most intensely happened in 1970 in the small town where he lived with his brothers and his parents, an unlicensed dentist who ventured professionally as a gold prospector and housewife such bad pregnancy that she wanted to baptize him as the Messiah because he believed his birth to be a miracle. The first name Jair is for a soccer player.

Bolsonaro was a 15-year-old teenager – and Brazil a dictatorship – when a major military operation revolutionized the dull routine of Eldorado, 180 kilometers south of São Paulo. A contingent of soldiers landed there in pursuit of Carlos Lamarca, a deserter who had joined the insurgents, and as they fled they got into a firefight with the police in the square. The landing of the soldiers, the roadblocks and searches impressed the boy, who was born in Glicério (São Paulo). Over time, he reluctantly enlisted in the army, exited the institution through the back door, made a long and mediocre career as an MP, and became President of the Republic in 2018, to the surprise of many of his compatriots who ignored or despised him for years.

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As the first president, the far-right – 67 and father of five children with three wives – has broken many economic promises, but promoted a pay-for-the-poor that reaches more people and more money than the old Bolsa Familia program, which did arms sales and dismantled Brazil’s environmental policy. Favorite of the most conservative voters thanks to his staunch opposition to the expansion of abortion or LGTB+ rights and an idol of a Brazil that abhors “communism” and equality policies, he is aiming to win another mandate against former President Luiz in the October 2 elections Winning Inácio Lula da Silva, 76 years old.

Bolsonaro holds a gold coin during a speech at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on May 5, 2021. Photo: Getty Images | Video: EPV

Despite the economic crisis and disastrous handling of the pandemic, Bolsonaro has maintained the unwavering support of a third of voters over these four years.

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For months, Lula has led some polls whose forecasts the president and the Bolsonaristas consider rigged and liars. As if they were preparing the ground to challenge the election result by emulating their admired Donald Trump in the United States. It would be the culmination of a strategy of sustained attacks on institutions such as the Supreme Court, his main counterweight during this tenure, although he has also been accused of excesses in the process. The erosion of Brazilian democracy is evident.

Journalist Carol Pires, 36, author of an intriguing sound profile of Bolsonaro entitled Narrated Portrait, discovered during her research the significance of this episode that took place in Eldorado half a century ago. For them, the main feature of Bolsonaro’s personality is that “from an early age he was a paranoid man who indulged in conspiracies”. His defenestrated collaborators “say that conspiracy declarations turned them from allies to enemies in the blink of an eye”. The change of ministers was constant. In the midst of a pandemic, he changed health ministers four times.

Bolsonaro poses next to Bolsonaro poses next to “Zé Gotinha,” a symbol of vaccination in Brazil, during the launch of the National Vaccination Plan against Covid-19 at the Planalto Palace December 16, 2020 in Brasilia. Andressa Anholete (Getty Images)

“Throughout his 27 years as a federal congressman, Bolsonaro has told this story (of hunting down the guerrillas) in different ways,” explains Pires, a reporter and screenwriter. Their participation grew from version to version. It gained importance. First, that the mugging caught him at school; then that he witnessed the shooting; later, who joined the soldiers in the search… Adds the journalist, who from then on spread conspiracy theories. He would say without evidence that the Lamarca guerrilla was in the area funded by the mayor of Eldorado, father of Rubens Paiva, a deputy who disappeared from the dictatorship. Decades later, Bolsonaro introduced former President Dilma Rousseff, who was a guerrilla, to falsely implicate her in the disappearance of that parliamentarian. Pure Bolsonaro.

In 2016, at the tumultuous session where MPs had to vote to impeach Leftist Rousseff, the extreme right dedicated their yes votes to an oppressor who tortured them during their imprisonment. The gesture scared some Brazilians, but for many it was another of Congressman Bolsonaro’s provocations and outbursts. Like the photos of the dictators who ruled between 1964 and 1985 that hang in his office in Congress. They are still there: a Bolsonarista MP inherited them.

For President Bolsonaro, this election is a duel between good and evil. He also invokes messianic discourse to explain his arrival in the presidency, a position he believes he was appointed by God after surviving the stab wounds of a madman who nearly killed him during the previous campaign . It was a watershed. It sparked his fame and separated him from the election debates.

During those four years at the helm, he has contradicted those who predicted he would moderate in office. President Bolsonaro is quite similar to candidate or MP Bolsonaro. His absolute lack of empathy for the victims of the Covid has cost him dearly, with comments such as “My name is Messiah, but I do not perform miracles” or his response “And what are you saying to me, I am not an undertaker!” This insensitivity and the delay in purchasing the vaccine, with the resulting avoidable loss of life, is one of the top reasons cited by voters who are banking on him as the embodiment of change and will now choose candidates of the so-called third way, or Lula for that matter.

A woman and a child walk next to a Brazilian flag with the face of Bolsonaro on an avenue in Brasilia, September 20, 2022.A woman and a child walk next to a Brazilian flag with the face of Bolsonaro on an avenue in Brasilia, September 20, 2022. Gustavo Minas (Getty Images)

Although the pandemic has presented a challenge of a caliber that its predecessors have not faced, the truth is that the president’s management is driven more by its desire to destroy than its determination to build. “Bolsonaro never had a political project, he was never an MP with proposals for public policy,” points out journalist Pires. “His most well-known statements are invariably aggressive towards women, homosexuals, black people. Always focused on the annihilation of the different. His logic is that anyone who disagrees with him is evil and must be destroyed. What do you want to put in its place? He doesn’t even know himself,” he says. To all of this, Bolsonaro’s admirers call it “openness”.

The captain, as he is known in the family, is the patriarch and leader of a political clan. He leads a compact group consisting of his three eldest sons strategically placed in different centers of power: Flávio, the firstborn, known as 01, is a senator; Rio de Janeiro City Councilor Carlos, 02, is the brains behind the strategy on social media and MP Eduardo, 03, the link to the illiberal extreme right of the rest of the world, from Trump to the Spaniards of Vox or the Italian Giorgia melon

To those who knew him — a minority, those who follow parliamentary politics closely — Bolsonaro was that irrelevant MP, a laughingstock who hadn’t passed a single law in three decades. Recalls saying in the 1990s that “the military regime should have finished the job by killing about 30,000 people” or telling a left-wing MP she was “too ugly to be raped”.

Bolsonaro saw his hour after Trump’s election victory in the United States. He skillfully capitalized on fatigue with corruption, violence and dissatisfaction with lifelong politicians, even if he was one of them. And his son Carlos, 02, developed a social media campaign that was hugely effective.

The patriarch took 10 points from the Labor party candidate in the second round for taking advantage of the situation, in addition to forging alliances with evangelicals, police and soldiers. Two out of three Brazilian men and seven out of ten Protestants voted for him. Inland Brazil, his speech, in which he prioritized extractivist economic development without regard to environmental damage or indigenous communities, was also enthusiastic. This garnered him the support of the most thriving sector of the economy, agribusiness, while pointing to NGOs, indigenous people, environmentalists and other sectors as guilty of impeding economic development that would benefit local people.

Jair Bolsonaro greets participants in a demonstration in support of his government May 15, 2021 from a helicopter in Brasilia. Jair Bolsonaro greets participants in a demonstration in support of his government May 15, 2021 from a helicopter in Brasilia. Adressa Anholete (Getty Images)

Four years later, if the polls hold true, he will become the first president not to be re-elected in Brazil this century.

It is impossible to understand Bolsonaro without considering that he was educated at the military academy during the dictatorship’s leadership years and was just leaving the institution when Brazil returned to the democratic path in 1988. He was invited to return to civilian Life After magazine Veja about his plans to plant a bomb to protest the soldiers’ low pay. The author of Bolsonaro’s sound profile claims “he’s bringing this mentality of a coup army to politics”. His conclusion, after many months of immersing himself in the nooks and crannies of presidential life, is: “He was a bad soldier, a bad MP, and a bad president.”

The far-right and his supporters insist the polls continue to underestimate him, as they did in 2018. They claim that the media and the election authorities are in cahoots to throw him out and that Lula is winning. The proof, they say, is that it’s enough to take one look at the crowds he gathers at his events – traditional families, motorcycle and gun enthusiasts – to be sure the Captain’s victory is within reach, first Round. The unknown is what will happen if the electoral authorities certify that the majority of Brazilians favor their opponent.

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