In the wake of the most controversial elections in recent Brazilian history, Jair Bolsonaro, the so-called “Trump of the Tropics”, has called into question the legitimacy of modern democracy in Brazil and elsewhere. Nearly a hundred years have passed since the establishment of Mussolini’s Fascio di Combattimento, with this year also marking the centenary of Hitler’s entry into the Nazi party. Therefore, the gravity of this presidential choice cannot be avoided, and moreover, it must be confronted if we are to prevent a repetition of the shameful appeasement policy which rendered Britain and France complicit in the slaughter of millions of “undesirables”, caught in the sweeping wave of European fascism. Recognising the cyclic quality of this form of nationalist, xenophobic, and frankly brutal ideology is key to thwarting its destructive plans. If one acknowledges the striking similarities between the present leadership and regimes gone by, it becomes possible to link them, and then to pre-empt every move, winning the game before it has even truly begun.
Less than a month after Bolsonaro was sworn in, the openly-gay politician Jean Wyllys announced that he was leaving Brazil in order to seek refuge from the abuse and death threats that have become all too common in the aftermath of Bolsonaro’s hateful electoral campaign. This policy of homophobia and state-sanctioned discrimination harks back to the time of a ‘gay island’ in Italy for homosexual prisoners, or the infamous pink triangles of Dachau, Buchenwald, and other concentration camps. Enough.
In his domestic policy, Bolsonaro’s ideas serve only to revive the painful authoritarian rule of many a militant dictator. One chilling quote from 2008 presents his threatening character most astutely: “The only mistake of the dictatorship (1964-85) was torturing and not killing.” These words sing the same deadly song as Hitler’s anti-Semitic call to arms, “We are going to destroy the Jews,” or the racial attacks against Mexican immigrants found in Trump’s nauseating speeches: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Enough.
While political analysts have barely toyed with the idea that Bolsonaro is a fascist leader, capable of legitimising public violence and of killing his own citizens, it is imperative that we move quickly to change the current dialogue. We need to act in order to stay ahead of Bolsonaro and his hard-handed politics. The current situation in Brazil is dangerous, with the homicide rate increasing by 3% last year, and twice as much for female victims. Additionally, the rate of sexual assaults climbed another 8% - this figure is a testament to the toxic climate of Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have already made their position clear: “His election as Brazil’s president could pose a huge risk to Indigenous Peoples and quilombolas (descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves), traditional rural communities, LGBTI people, black youth, women, activists and civil society organizations.” The recycling of outdated and murderous ethnocentric political discourse in Brazil is not a tragedy; it is a preventable regeneration of what we have already seen, what we have already fought, and what we have already defeated. Enough.
*Illustration by Isi Williams*