Get ready for the return of Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil's former president declared that his mission was not yet over
Do we now have an answer to when Jair Bolsonaro — holed up in Orlando, Florida since the end of his presidential term — will return to Brazil? Speaking at conservative gathering CPAC just outside Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Bolsonaro declared that his mission “is not yet over”; later at the conference, he told NBC he would go back to his home country this month. This comes after a Wall Street Journal interview last month in which the former president claimed he would return to lead the opposition.
Bolsonaro’s legal troubles continue to mount, with the latest incident concerning an alleged attempt to smuggle $3.2m-worth of Saudi jewels into Brazil. And, of course, he faces potential legal repercussions for his alleged role in the 8 January storming of government buildings, though he played down any responsibility at CPAC, saying, “I was no longer president, and I was outside Brazil.” Bolsonaro has lost his parliamentary immunity, known in Brazil as foro privilegiado, and the Supreme Court is dealing with a slew of legal petitions against him. He recognises that an arrest warrant could come from just about anywhere.
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Yet if Bolsonaro remains in the US, he risks abandoning the movement that coalesced around him. The longer he remains away, the less relevant he becomes to a Brazilian Right that is having to reorient itself to new circumstances.
Indeed, there are sections of the Right in Congress, among representatives of the Progressistas, Republicanos and Bolsonaro’s own Partido Liberal (PL), who want to cut the former president loose. Wary of being associated with the vandalism and extremism on show in the attack on the Three Powers Plaza on 8 January, many of his former supporters — including close allies — are taking a step back. In recent weeks, Bolsonaro has accused his former attack dog, Congresswoman Carla Zambelli, of treason after she admitted the former president could be arrested. Another, Senator Marcos do Val, has implicated him in a plot to blackmail a Supreme Court justice and cancel the election.
Bolsonaro hardly helps himself, either. While laughing off the idea that 8 January was a coup attempt, at CPAC he also claimed to have had more support than ever in 2022, “but for some reasons the numbers did not reflect that” — yet another baseless allusion to electoral fraud.
Is Bolsonarismo falling apart? It is too early to say, but it is important to note that it was never a unitary movement. Groups with different interests and values rallied around him in 2018, ranging from typical middle-class voters of the Right — motivated more by anti-Leftism than anything else — to hardcore military authoritarians, passing through agribusiness, evangelicals, finance capital, and others. Many of these pillars had already peeled off by the time 2022 rolled around, leaving behind a group of hardcore conservative activists.
While it is true that Bolsonaro still has some value to the Brazilian Right — he only lost the election last year by less than two percentage points — he also has many patent disadvantages: a terrible record in governance and legislative accomplishments, as well as a flighty inconsistency and a range of criminal accusations attached to him and his family. Finally, he may soon be made electorally ineligible.
As he plots his return, Bolsonaro will remain in Florida — long the base from which disgruntled Rightist exiles organised coups. But having built no party machine to protect his legacy, he may feel the need to return sooner rather than later. Once this plug is pulled, it is amazing how quickly attention shifts elsewhere.
…“but for some reasons the numbers did not reflect that” — yet another baseless allusion to electoral fraud.
I’m curious: how do you know it is baseless?
It simply is. Let me tell you a bit about how the results went. So, as well stated by the author of this article, Bolsonaro’s main group of voters are middle-class workers. Some of them are “anti-PeTistas” (the anti-leftists he mentioned, but it’s more accurate to describe it as a hatred against the Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Workers Party, the main party responsible for the corruption scandals throughout the last decade), and some of them are ufanists who have a false nostalgia about the period we went through a Military Dictatorship (heavily influenced by a philosopher by the name of Olavo de Carvalho). The middle-class was heavily important for the victory of Bolsonaro in 2018. But through 2019, many controversial things happened inside the government, starting the corrosion of the Brazilian Right, with its apex through the resignation of the Minister of Justice, Sergio Moro (a very strong representative of one of the factors that led to the rise of our Right, the Lava-Jato initiative), besides the Covid pandemic. You might agree or disagree with him about how he led the country during the Covid pandemic (I heavily disagree, he lacked leadership, evaded responsibility and is a proven coward in all ways), but seeing how much of a man he truly was (he wasn’t), an important portion of the “anti-leftism” voters decided that continuing with Bolsonaro would mean nothing would change. It was a small group, but numerous enough to lead to his defeat.
You might ask: “what does this all have to do with the so-called baseless accusation?” In fact, it doesn’t, because it’s all a distraction. Bolsonarismo, much like the Lulopetismo (reference to how Lula is the definitive representative of the Workers Party), is a pagan cult, trying to justify everything that their messianic leader does and doesn’t as a process to bring salvation to our country, despite being part of the very problem that our country faces ever since it became a Republic. A defeat? Impossible, Satanic forces are trying to prevent us from saving the country from the evil that plagues us, according to them, Communism (to Lulopetistas, it would be fascism). Don’t let them fool you, they use the same techniques and logic (they’re part of the same problem after all) to try to fulfill their goals, while we normal people have to watch these freaking clowns doing the most stupid crap. While imitating the US (how great!).
In short, it is a loser’s excuse. He has to justify to the people who still believe in him why he does all the nonsense. Anyone who saw the game as it was actually played could easily predict the outcome. I, a nobody, already knew that the result would be almost 51% to 49%, and some bizarre events that happened in the week before the runoff only confirmed what I expected.
An excellent well-balanced analysis. I currently live in Rio Grande do Sul (southern-most state in Brasil), which voted 56% in favor of Bolsonaro over Lula.
I sense that Bolso’s appeal (very strong immediately after the election) is settling down to something like Trump’s – about 20-25% of the total electorate are rabid followers who think the closest election in Brazil’s democratic history was rigged, and will do what it takes to return him to power.
Many others loathe Lula (his left-wing pranks are getting on many people’s nerves) but understand that Jair is too tainted to be re-elected, and will likely be arrested if he returns.
However, the author hints that being in Orlando associates him with those who have hatched right-wing coups. Bolso seems to disorganized to pull anything off like that.
Brazil, once a member of “BRICS” (does anyone remember that once-novel term anymore?), has fallen prey to socialism and will soon falter and fall, like all who have come before it. With South Africa (a failed state), China (a failing state), Russia (an embattled state), it will fall.I leave India out, because they’ve done surprisingly well over the last few years. I’m curious if anyone has any theories why that is.
In which case, Brazil and South Africa sound a lot like the UK.
I wouldn’t write China off just yet.
India hasn’t been socialist in any meaningful way for a long time actually, though they have retained some of the protectionist tendencies inherent in their style of anti-colonial socialism. Their economic policies could almost be described as a modern take on mercantilism, which attempts to frame economic power in terms of political and national power and leverage economics for geopolitical ends. As you say, they do seem to be doing fairly well for themselves. Modi is a fairly popular figure for right leaning anti-globalists even outside of India.
I was doing business in India from the late 90s to about 2015 and would say the protectionism only began to change around 2000-2002.
It was also quite clear at the time that Modi’s Gujarat was the best functioning state in India but there were and are so many vested interests even now who do not want him to succeed at federal level.
Why is Florida the Mecca of Lost Causes and a magnet for revanchist refugees? The anti-Castro Cubanos (recall the Bay of Pigs fiasco); the exiled and excoriated Shah of Iran and his heirs (who still quixotically dream of “next year in Teheran”); the abominable Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines )who was soon shown the departure lounge); brooding Jair Bolsonaro; and of course, the Mad King of Mar e Largo himself.
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