Bolsonaro hides while supporters do dirty work - GulfToday

Bolsonaro hides while supporters do dirty work

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Jair Bolsonaro

As former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro retreated to a luxury gated community in Florida — where he has been seen doing mundane things like grocery shopping — his marauding supporters on Sunday defaced Brazil’s Congress, presidential office building and Supreme Court. It’s impossible not to see the irony of another far-right leader who, for years, incited his base with unfounded allegations of voter fraud. He takes off, leaving the dirty work to be done by his army of blind loyalists. He then lands in the Sunshine State, home of Donald Trump, who incited the Jan. 6 US Capitol invasion with similar conspiracy theories, and the hotbed of America’s extreme right-wing politics at the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans.

There aren’t two sides to what happened in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia on Sunday — or at the US Capitol in 2021. These weren’t mere expressions of an opinion or dissatisfaction with government. As Brazil’s justice minister rightly described it, these were acts of terrorism and coup-mongering.  And it’s not surprising. Ever since Bolsonaro lost an October election to Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, there’s been the threat and fear of violence. Days before Lula’s inauguration last week, a bomb was discovered on a fuel truck near Brasilia’s airport.

The brand of conservative politics disseminated by Bolsonaro, and Trump, cannot be dissociated from violence. They are steeped in the belief that “progress” should be achieved at all costs, even if it means dismantling the democracy that allowed them to be elected in the first place. Little differentiates them from fascist movements of the 20th century.  It’s no wonder that a political movement that preaches complete annihilation of opponents, that feeds on misinformation and hatred toward minorities culminates in an attack on democratic institutions. It’s disturbing — though expected — that Bolsonaro supporters in Miami greeted as a hero a Brazilian congresswoman and Bolsonaro ally who followed, while pointing a gun, a Black man in Sao Paulo after an argument the day before the elections in October. They act much like Trump rally attendees who cheered when the former president said he would like to punch a protester in the face.

Brazil’s rabid mob acted just days after the two-year anniversary of Jan. 6. In both cases, the intent was to reverse the results of a fair election. One sought to stop Congress’ certification of Electoral College results giving Joe Biden the win. The other demands a military intervention like the 1964 coup that sent Brazil into 20 years of an authoritarian regime that tortured and killed dissidents.  The main difference is that the Brazilian Congress wasn’t in session on Sunday. Unlike Biden on Jan. 6, 2021, Lula had already been sworn in as president. So it’s unlikely that the storming of the buildings in Brasilia could have achieved more than sowing fear and chaos in Latin America’s largest democracy. However, Bolsonaro’s radicals have been convinced by fake news and ludicrous theories circulated on chat apps like WhatsApp that the Brazilian army is just waiting for a signal to interfere.

Rioters broke windows, toppled furniture, punctured a painting by a renowned Brazilian artist, ripped the door off a Supreme Court justice’s office and more. Not even a watch brought by the Portuguese king to Brazil in 1808 was spared. So far, more than 400 people have been arrested, according to CNN Brazil. Another 1,200 who had been camping outside military headquarters in Brasilia have been detained.

No one expected Bolsonaro to act like a statesman while all this happened. Staying in Orlando as he possibly faces criminal charges in Brazil related to his doings as president, Bolsonaro has yet to show his face publicly.

He tweeted Sunday that the depredation and invasion of public buildings are “outside the rules.” He then proceeded to play the victim, writing — while police were clearing out his supporters from inside those same buildings — that he rejects “baseless” accusations by Lula. The next day, as his country still tried to make sense of the violence performed in his name, he made several posts listing what he described as 37 accomplishments of his presidential term.  Trumpism and Bolsonarism aren’t defined by self-reflection and love for country. Their main trait is self-delusion. There are no facts, no arguing, no pleading that will stop these men — and their zombielike followers — from inflicting harm on these democracies.  Bolsonaro’s stay in Florida — where Trump only grew in popularity after his first term — is a shameful reminder that too many people are drinking their poisoned Kool-Aid.

Tribune New Service

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