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The Government Must Challenge the Far-Right in Brazil, Not Cosy up to Bolsonaro – Claudia Webbe MP

“For those internationally who doubt the severity of the threat Bolsonaro represents, he has said that “only God” could remove him from power, following earlier comments that he will either be re-elected or killed.”

More and more Brazilians are rejecting far-right President Jair Bolsonaro writes Claudia Webbe MP.

When Boris Johnson and Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro met earlier this month, there was surprisingly little press scrutiny of the Tories’ attempts to build such a close political and economic relationship with a President who is increasingly unpopular in his own country, and widely accused of human rights abuses and abhorrent discriminatory views.

The context to this recent meeting in terms of Brazil, is growing concern that Bolsonaro poses a threat to the very existence of democracy in the country.

In particular, Brazilian Independence day was marked by mass demonstrations by opponents of Bolsonaro, and counter demonstrations by his increasingly aggressive far-right base.

The content of Bolsonaro’s own speeches and other recent interventions, coupled with the actions of his supporters, have led to increasing concerns that Brazilian democracy is further under threat. Bolsonaro has become increasingly desperate and is lashing out as he becomes more and more isolated and unpopular.

The alliance of forces assembled on Bolsonaro’s protests remind us of Trump’s anti-democratic rallies in the US, bringing together far-right activists, pro-gun supporters, evangelicals, conspiracy and anti-vaccine activists, and others who support the arch-reactionary President’s agenda.

Whilst this had supposed to be a “show of strength” for the far-right, in fact it further illustrated growing isolation and weakness.

Nonetheless, Bolsonaro’s two speeches on the day should sound great alarm bells for all of those of who support democracy and human rights internationally, representing what some have termed a “coup tone,” including through ferocious attacks on the country’s Supreme Federal Court.

Part of this anti-democratic agenda – with just one year to go before Brazil’s next presidential elections – involves sustained attacks on Brazil’s electronic voting system, even though it is the system he himself was elected through!

The Court itself replied to Bolsonaro’s attacks by terming them an “attack on democracy,” with its president saying, “the supreme court will never accept threats to its independence or intimidation.”

For those internationally who doubt the severity of the threat Bolsonaro represents, he has said that “only God” could remove him from power, following earlier comments that he will either be re-elected or killed.

He was also recently pictured shouting “gunmen will never be enslaved” and has said that “everybody has to buy a rifle,” in a move taken very much to heart by some of his core supporters, especially given a context where his presidency has led to gun and violent crime being out of control.

In 2019 Bolsonaro approved a decree to facilitate the sale of arms, and it is now thought that a firearms is sold in Brazil every three minutes. The thought of thousands of far-right activists in Brazil armed to the teeth should not only frighten progressives and democrats around the world, but also act as a wake-up call on the need to provide international solidarity and vigilance.

The context to Bolsonaro’s latest outbursts has been polling showing that at least 58 percent of Brazilians support his impeachment. The demand for his impeachment is continually growing and has seen different civil society groups submit 122 impeachment demands against Bolsonaro; accusing him of 23 crimes, such as pursuing the closure of the Supreme Court and the National Congress, inciting soldiers to ignore the law, and torture apologia.

This deepening unpopularity undoubtedly explains why the far-right leader is getting desperate, with further July polling suggesting his popularity is at its lowest yet (24%) and that he could lose in a first round to former President and leader of the Left in Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Polls also show 60% of voters would not vote for Bolsonaro in any circumstances in the 2022 poll, and also that 64% disapprove of his administration.

His ‘coup rhetoric’ can also be seen as a desperate attempt to distract from his own failures in office, most noticeably massive, rising unemployment and his disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has almost reached 600,000 deaths in Brazil even by official figures which are thought to greatly under-represent the horrific, real situation.

It is clear then that opposition to Bolsonaro is reaching further and further across society – and as well as being reflected in the polls, this is shown by the massive and almost continual protests against his rule.

On Independence Day, as Bolsonaro supporters rallied in what has been seen as lower than expected numbers, protests and rallies demanding his removal were taking place in more than 160 Brazilian cities.

These protests were just one example of growing resistance across society. We’ve also recently witnessed a trade union general strike, and indigenous communities taking direct action to reject invasion and de-forestation of their lands.

As the 2022 election in Brazil approaches, we need to be clear that we are on the side of those fighting against Bolsonaro and stand internationally with their efforts for democracy, equality,  environment and social progress.

Boris Johnson meets Bolsonaro at the UN General Assembly summit. Photo credit: Guardian News/YouTube.

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