January: US 6 - Brazil 8
In an unmistakable echo of January 6, 2021, Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brazil’s federal government buildings on January 8, 2023.
Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in 2018. A controversial ex-army captain known for his far-right politics and defense of the former Brazilian military dictatorship. Bolsonaro is a self-proclaimed nationalist who has expressed racist, homophobic, and misogynistic views. His outspoken and rash nature has earned him comparisons to Donald Trump, with many using the nickname “Brazilian Trump” or “Tropical Trump.” Trump and Bolsonaro have a fantastic relationship and support each other, often publicly.
There are numerous comparisons between Bolsonaro and Donald Trump. They share similar beliefs on nationalism, religion, women, Covid-19, and democratic elections. The idea that their countries must be made “great again” is mutual. The two leaders share a vocabulary of intolerance and insult. The clearest example is their brash “shoot from the hip” speaking style.
Bolsonaro has a laundry list of terrible quotes and beliefs. Here are just a few examples:
“I have five children. Four are men, and then in a moment of weakness, the fifth came out a girl” (2017).
“The scum of the earth is showing up in Brazil as if we didn’t have enough problems of our own to sort out” (2015).
“I would prefer my son die in an accident than show up with some guy with a mustache” (2011).
It is essential to highlight that much of his rhetoric regarding democratic elections was and continues to mirror Donald Trump’s. After his narrow win in the 2018 presidential election, Bolsonaro talked of hackers attempting to alter the results of his victory. As Bolsonaro’s re-election campaign commenced, the comparisons between Trump and Bolsonaro aligned further. Bolsonaro said it’s “easy to rig” voting machines, votes are counted in secret rooms, and “it’s impossible to audit elections in Brazil.” America is well-known for its cultural exports, which now include right-wing election denialism to fuel a fracturing of society. All of Bolsonaro’s claims have been presented without evidence (sound familiar?).
The result of a year-long campaign to discredit elections spread as October 2022 drew near. In the run-up to the election polls, Bolsonaro’s opponent maintained a comfortable lead. This increased election denialism as a centerpiece for a campaign that leaned more toward polarization instead of policy. More than ever, an increasing number of Brazilians were convinced that the election was fraudulent if their candidate did not win. Bolsonaro promised that the fraud would not come to pass and that victory was the only option.
“There are only three alternatives for me: to be arrested, to be killed, or to be victorious. And I tell those scumbags, I will never go to jail” (2021).
One of the world’s largest democracies was barreling toward a cliff. Once again, the incumbent president would not say whether he would hand over power. Once again, a population was intentionally duped into believing an election was already over before it happened. After Bolsonaro’s defeat, his supporters claimed he was the subject of fraud. Weeks later, Brazilians had a day off to celebrate National Republic Day; most people hit the beach. The die-hard supporters of Bolsonaro did not; they donned fatigues and marched in front of Rio de Janeiro’s downtown Army headquarters, calling for the military to save the nation. American election deniers like MyPillow CEO and staunch Trump supporter Mike Lindell started talking.
American election deniers like Lindell saw an opportunity to build on their conspiracies for a new audience and nation after failed attempts to overturn the US election. The message was broadcast over social media and conservative broadcast websites like “Frankspeech.”
Now we come to this week, where (and tell me if this sounds familiar) Bolsonaro supporters invaded the Capitol of the federal government. They set fire to the carpet in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, stormed the presidential offices, rifled through papers and attempted to barricade themselves inside, and pursued the destruction of the windows inside the Supreme Court. This took place on January 6, 2021 (hold on, I’m getting my insurrections mixed up). I meant January 8, 2023
Fortunately (unlike January 6), no lawmakers were in the government buildings. The January 8 insurrection had far less planning and seemingly no involvement from any Brazilian lawmakers. While January 6 had intent (to stop the delegates from certifying the election), January 8 was solely an outburst of rage built over the years by a leader and his inner circle. Bolsonaro was (and currently still is) visiting the state of Florida in the United States. Pictures of Bolsonaro at Publix made the rounds on Twitter while, at the same time, his supporters were storming the Capitol. Bolsonaro is currently under investigation on corruption charges; while this probably has nothing to do with the ongoing investigation, it certainly won’t help.
The tale of two insurrections is nearly identical despite happening in two countries and on two continents. Brazilian authorities have regained control of the situation, but we are once again reminded of the extreme pressure democracies around the world are facing. Every election has the potential to be the last. No country is safe from a nationalist figure saying, “only I can fix the system,” and that any unfavorable results are an attack on the nation and the people. It is incumbent upon the public to maintain civility and recognize false information with the potential to harm the country, regardless of where you live.
TLDR Right wing leaders around the world are copying the Trump playbook. Casting doubt on the Democratic process has become a key strategy in passion and support from ideologues after losing an election. The consequences of this are dire.
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