By Natalie Chen
Supporters of former Brazilian President Bolsonaro (back) clash with law enforcement officers in the capital, who form a chain behind barriers and fire tear gas shells at protesters. Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have stormed the Congress in the capital Brasilia. // Matheus Alves /Alamy
Protesters waving the national flag stormed the Congress and shouted slogans about a “stolen election” while praising the leader they insist won the last presidential race.
No, I’m not referring to the Jan. 6 Capitol coup attempt, whose two-year anniversary we just marked, but the continually unfolding saga in Brazil right now. Thousands of demonstrators whose leaders were advised by former Trump officials, and financed by still-unknown entities, attempted, and failed, to thwart the newly elected president from assuming authority.
Details are still emerging from this failed coup attempt inspired by Jan. 6, 2021. However what we do know so far is a damning indictment of Trump minions like Steve Bannon, who for months has been advising the country’s hard-right, anti-democratic leaders, including the recently defeated President Jair Bolsonaro.
The disgraced former Brazilian president has insisted that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” and that the country’s electronic voting machines, in use for decades, could no longer be trusted.
It gets worse.
Bolsonaro refused to participate in the ceremonial handing over of the presidential sash to his successor, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, and instead left the country prior to the ceremony and is currently residing in Orlando.
I seem to recall another ex-president too bratty to accept his loss who refused to participate in the pageantry of peacefully handing over authority from one elected leader to another.
Trump and Bolsonaro are buddies, the two having been seen dining at Mar-a-Lago and have exchanged public expressions of mutual adoration. The former Brazilian president repeatedly parroted Trump talking points, not only about “rigged” elections, but also similarly downplayed COVID-19 at its worst (the Brazilian leader was even far more reckless than Trump on that front).
Former Trump spokesman Jason Miller and current CEO of Gettr — the social-media cesspool that makes Twitter bile look reasonable by comparison — was detained IN Brasilia, the Brazilian capital, for questioning in 2021.
How brazen must these people be in their efforts to undermine democracy around the world before the sane among us say “enough is enough!”? How many journalists have to be attacked?
It pains me to see Brazil’s democracy come under fire from the same fascistic fringe led by Trump and his followers who seem hell bent on trying to franchise their brand of illiberal leadership around the world. Brazil was previously under the control of a hardline military dictatorship for 19 years that ended in 1985, and took great pains to preserve their nascent and fragile democracy until Bolsonaro campaigned and won on a hardline, anti-democratic, populist platform.
I know Brazilian politics and its people all too well. From 2002 to 2006, I lived in and reported from Brazil, a country I consider my second home. It’s where I immersed myself in a culture, language, and people that proved endlessly intriguing.
I hate to think that anyone from my country of birth is fomenting the anti-democratic lunacy that threatened to upend Latin America’s largest democracy and a similar beacon of global immigration that makes Brazil a fellow “melting pot” (Brazilians like to refer to themselves a “mixed salad” but the sentiment is similar).
Yes, it’s a combination that can be messy and, at times, violent, but it’s a nation, like America, where people the world over have immigrated to, in search of better lives.
There’s an expression in Portuguese that has no direct translation into English, though is best understood as a “longing” or “missing” for something you love: “saudades.” It’s most often use in a context like:
“Tenho saudades por Brasil”: “I long for (and adore) Brazil.”
As Brazilian authorities assess the destruction caused by violent Bolsonaro supporters egged on by Trump, Bannon, and the rest, there’s another sentiment I wish to express to the people of Brazil on behalf of those of us who condemn political violence both in America and around the world:
“Sinto Muito” (I’m deeply sorry).
Carmen Gentile is founder and editor-at-large of Postindustrial. He has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan.
By Carmen Gentile
By Marcella S. Kreiter