Bolsonarism and pandemic



The former captain is less a lone wolf than a spokesman for an authoritarian temptation that permeates Brazilian history.

The origin staging

Jair Messias Bolsonaro assumed the presidency of the Republic of Brazil on 1o January 2019, announcing a national “revolution” that, after years of leftist governments, would restore order and put the country back on track; its main target was the model of society that had taken shape since the re-democratization of the country in the 80s, in particular with the promulgation of a new Constitution in 1988. To grasp the profound meaning of this project, it is convenient to go back in time, precisely to the on April 17, 2016, when the character introduced the nation to its highest ideals and offered himself as a guide into a new era.

Brazil was going through the process of impeachment (as they say in English) of President Dilma Rousseff, first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. In the wake of the Lava-Jato operation, the Workers' Party (PT), the main leftist association in the country to which Rousseff belonged and the former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, was accused of setting up a huge corruption scheme to finance electoral campaigns.[I]

The process emerged as a golden opportunity to bring down 'Lulismo', thanks to a combination of circumstances: in addition to Lava-Jato, economic and political crisis, inflamed opposition from the mainstream media, the government's minority in the National Congress and the strategic positioning of a declared enemy of the president in charge of the Chamber of Deputies who was responsible for the procedures. The revanchist mood was contagious; for some, the moment had finally arrived to block the “communization” of the country. A new type of coup, as has become the tone of Latin America in recent years: instead of the traditional barracks that once deposed presidents according to the mood of generals, a parliamentary maneuver forged from the production of the infeasibility of the government combined with the calculated use of court machine.[ii]

From a class point of view, the act of force circumvented the electoral results and brought to power a politician, Vice President Michel Temer, who was strongly committed to the markets and to an agenda of liberal reforms that promised a new world for the unemployed and unprecedented facilities for the business community.[iii]

On that April 17 (a Sunday that symptomatically coincided with the first twenty years of the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre), the Chamber of Deputies had to evaluate the removal of Dilma Rousseff from presidential duties for 180 days, until the conclusion of the trial. After the interventions of the prosecution and defense, each parliamentarian was called to declare his vote, having a minute and a half for considerations. With that, we arrive at the point that, here, is fundamental: the speech that preceded the vote of the then federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro.[iv]

In the short time allotted to him, he produced a synthesis of Bolsonarist ideas based on an interpretation of national history and the incisive division between friends and enemies. And with remarkable clarity. If the character has any virtue, it is not to hide his values. Indeed, these were displayed as in a shop window, wide open waiting for the disgruntled fringes to adhere to their project, then already announced, of presidential candidacy. After all, no one can complain.

No improvisation. The script was described on the sheet that the right hand carried and that would be consulted in due course. Among the crowd of parliamentarians, Bolsonaro stands out and takes the microphone, with a mischievous smile, half-open mouth and bared teeth. The staging, for its scenographic perfection and for the excellent performance, must have been passed on several times. The ambition is great, the spectacle cannot be smaller. It starts with a wave in front of the right index finger that calls attention and stops in the air.

After the introit, a brief silence and the declaration of vote, the big moment. The right hand gestures accompanying speech. The index finger points to the left: “they lost in 64”; flattened, the same hand moves to the right until the conclusion: “they lost now in 2016”. After tracing this temporal arc between the date of the military coup and the present, consulting the annotation and reaffirming the fight against communism, the vote is dedicated to families and children.

Another cut, the tone of voice changes and comes that syllable that tells the listener to redouble their attention: “by the memory of Colonel Car-los Al-ber-to Bri-lhan-te Us-tra”. In contrast, the ending is light and given by an epithet intended to inflame the spirits: “the dread of Dilma Rousseff”. New stop. The list of honorees resumes: by the Army, by our Armed Forces; until the triumphant closing: the vote is “for a Brazil above all, and for God above all”.

There appeared, perhaps for the first time on national television, the motto for Bolsonarists about the 2018 election. Deutschland über alles, or else with the touch of neotheocracy that beckoned to a portion of the electorate. What really clashed with the farcical script and had strong repercussions was the salute to the dreadful Colonel Brilhante Ustra. It explains: in her early twenties, during the dictatorship’s “years of lead”, the young Dilma was under Ustra’s guard in the dreaded DOI-Codi (Information Operations Detachment – ​​Internal Defense Operations Center) prison. .

Many voices were raised in reproach, others fell silent, gaping at this cruel memory of the prison and the tortures suffered by the young woman; the controversy was wide and reached the foreign press. Apology for crime or freedom of expression? Seeking to dimension the seriousness of the act, someone compared: it is as if a German deputy, in the Reichstag, remembered with approval the name of a Nazi official involved in the administration of concentration camps. Certainly the circumstances weren't enough to explain that, and that's why many people in the mainstream press and in the establishment politician reduced the attitude to the craziness of a loudmouth given to inconvenient tirades, as if to say: “Bolsonaro?! ah, it's crazy, it's not worth giving a leash”.

Implicit reasoning: freedom of expression has its costs and one of them is letting idiots talk freely, especially when you are a federal deputy; the best remedy is to isolate him and let him speak to himself or to the like-minded few. Looking at it today, in fact, it doesn't even seem like the end of the world anymore. That explosion of cruelty (“the fear of Dilma Rousseff”) was replicated so many times in conditions so diverse that, retrospectively, it was normalized. What would have crossed Bolsonaro's mind at that moment? Maybe nothing. "I'm just the same. It has no strategy”, clarified himself with a certain candor, already a representative of the Republic, after similar episodes.

Still recently, as he does every time he gets involved and feels the need to trample the “communes”, he demanded the X-rays from the former president prove that she had been tortured. It is as if his fascination with torturers and political violence (on another occasion she considered that part of the national problems was due to the small number of people killed by the military regime) was an atavistic fact.

However, as anyone who has the patience to watch and rewatch the scene will prove, the formal refinement of the set is only paralleled by the baseness of the reference to Ustra, handpicked to garrotte the spirit of the then president. No escapades, no loose words or gestures; definitely nothing suggests spontaneity, faulty act or free association. We are as far from an uncontrolled outpouring (“I am like that”) as premeditation is from reflex movement. A perfect speech, in just over a minute; designed to distinguish and elevate the orator above the parliamentary mass and to show that there was a claimant to the executive head of the country. And in that he was very successful.

The former paratrooper and captain was not just a “lone wolf”, in the technical sense that the discourse of the war on terror attributed to the expression: someone who, outside a larger structure and by his own efforts, acts alone moved by ideals that obsess and justify their sacrifice. A political outgrowth, no doubt, but with a clear programmatic content. Bolsonaro said what he said because he knew how to talk to someone who expected to hear that. He wasn't alone.

April 17, 2016 and that brief intervention by Bolsonaro provide a kind of birth certificate of what we can today call “Bolsonarism”. A politician projects himself as a leader by exposing an ideology that resonates with a considerable portion of the social body, which starts to consider him a representative; the alliance is forged through the fundamental gesture of every authoritarian creed: friends are summoned to fight together and enemies are warned that, against them, all weapons will henceforth be considered legitimate.

From Satire to Tragedy

Throughout the 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonarism took the definitive form of movement, and its electoral victory made Brazil once again find some ghosts of the past that were treacherously repressed without ever having been overcome.

To begin with, Bolsonaro managed to gather around his name the groups that still miss the 1964 military regime, including almost all of the Armed Forces, which never looked favorably on left-wing governments; in addition to the obvious stain of being 'leftists', they would have committed unforgivable sins such as facilitating the demarcation of indigenous lands in the Amazon and convening a Truth Commission to investigate the abuses of state power during the dictatorship.

In addition, new characters began to gravitate around the same ideal: the neoliberals who felt assured by the figure of Paulo Guedes, who would become Minister of Finance and guarantor of the “reforms” that would guarantee the “austerity” of the new government; many of the powerful evangelical currents of varied denomination but equally attached to the objective of molding society according to their values; Last but not least, diffuse portions of the population that for years had identified itself as anti-Lulist, bringing together, through the moralistic discourse that attributed the origin of Brazilian political corruption to the PT, from those who, socially ascended, feared a relapse into poverty, to the traditional middle class that he saw the country sunk in an aberrant hierarchical upheaval – a sufficiently eloquent example: defending fiscal severity, at the beginning of 2020, Guedes declared that the country used to be a “party”, with “maids going to Disney”.[v]

Aside from the hatred condensed in the repeated denunciation of the communization of the country, which would put us on the verge of falling back into the troubled situation in Venezuela, and the statement that it was necessary to find an orderly and honest life again, Bolsonaro practically did not present any government program that was very in addition to his obsession: the extermination of the left. The candidate who had led the polls until recently, Lula, had been opportunely jailed; a knife attack against Bolsonaro in September 2018, still in the first round of elections, came in handy as a perfect excuse for not attending any debate; on the other hand, for the first time, social networks played a leading role as an arena for disputing votes and, mainly, as an instrument for the orchestrated dissemination of rumors and lies (the so-called fake news).

At the end of this electoral campaign, which had the air of a “hybrid war”, it did not achieve a crushing victory. Far from it, as Bolsonaro did not even obtain half of the possible votes, giving rise to a comical and unprecedented situation: perhaps for the first time in history, a winning candidate denounced the elections that elected him as a great fraud and began to regularly under suspicion the electronic voting system that the country has used for years without major problems, always adding that it will not accept a defeat in its re-election attempt in 2022.

In any case, the way was open for the revolution of the so-called “good citizens”: review of labor rights and the social security system that would discourage the entrepreneurial spirit; gradual release of the possession of firearms and apology for their use in defense of private property; militarization of primary and secondary schools and reorganization of universities, which would have become Marxist ideological headquarters; unconditional alignment with Donald Trump's foreign policy; absence of Brazil in forums dedicated to environmental preservation and continued questioning of the UN as a space for discussion; loosening of environmental protection legislation and scrapping of inspection means; dismantling of policies aimed at promoting gender equality and the rights of LGBT people, under the command of the holder of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor who, upon taking office, announced with emphasis that Brazil was entering in a “new era” in which “boys wear blue and girls wear pink”.

Although the withdrawal of the opposition, especially from the left,[vi] seemed to offer Bolsonaro a wide space to be trodden without major obstacles, the setbacks were many and almost all due to struggles within the government itself. The coalition that elected Bolsonaro was almost entirely made up of smaller parties lacking bureaucratic cadres and experienced politicians. Once the government started, it didn't take long for its main names to demonstrate that they had little or no notion of the functioning of the State and the intricacies of relations between the executive and the legislative, composed of a myriad of associations that make the consolidation of a parliamentary majority herculean, and the judiciary, which has gained political protagonism in Brazil for years.

With that, little by little, the spaces were being occupied by members of the Armed Forces – who, for better or worse, are aware of what the State is – and the odd situation was reached that the Bolsonaro government has more military personnel among Ministers of State and in the higher echelon than during the dictatorship… military. This uniformed prominence sparked the jealousy of a second group that, although ignorant of the functioning of the state machine, is extremely influential, the so-called “ideological wing”, which brings together the most fervent extreme right that has as priority enemies what they call “ cultural Marxism” and “globalism”, the latest strategy of “international communism” to destroy Western nations and Christian values.[vii]

It is beside the point to propose a chronicle of the missteps of the first year of government; it is enough to point out that the picturesque composition of Templar knights (many of the ideological wing like to see themselves that way) and soldiers produced a kind of buffa opera. The damage was extensive, but nothing approaching a national revolution. At most, there was a comic prelude, whose finished synthesis can be found in a statement by the Minister of Culture, in January 2020, shamelessly inspired (as demonstrated) by excerpts from Goebbels: “The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and it will be national. It will be endowed with a great capacity for emotional involvement and will be equally imperative (...) or else it will be nothing”.

Then came the pandemic, which claimed its first death in Brazil on March 12, 2020.

A few aspects need to be mentioned in order for the situation to be minimally dimensioned. The initial disregard for the disease (a “little flu”, said the president) was followed by an attempt at camouflage, including the omission of official data,[viii] which led to the formation of a consortium of major media outlets for the daily consolidation of disease numbers; throughout 2020 the federal government systematically refused to negotiate the purchase of vaccines; the frequent change of ministers of health (we are in the fourth) and the lack of national coordination of the health system led to a critical situation that caused people to die in several regions, not only due to the lack of hospital beds but also, if there were beds, due to the lack of oxygen or; all measures of mandatory social distancing and the use of masks were rejected by the president, sometimes compared to confinement in Nazi camps and, when implemented by local governments, challenged in court.

Added to this is the bad taste of a character whose psychopathy borders on the dreadful and cruel caricature: on the very day the country reached the 200.000 death mark, in January 2021, Bolsonaro made a point of pondering: “life goes on ”; in March, he returned to admonish: “enough with the freshness, how long are you going to cry?”; days later, he jokingly faked death by asphyxiation. In the field of lies, nothing much different. The president almost religiously insists on the virtues of proven ineffective substances (chloroquine, ivermectin and the like), questions the effectiveness of vaccines and brags that the use of masks was harmful to health, in addition to – pardon the reader for the sordid detail, but it is important for characterizing the character, who exhibits a clear fixation with the issue of masculinity – putting the user's virility in check (it's a “fassy thing”).

At the end of one of the worst weeks of the pandemic in terms of number of deaths, between March 15 and 21, when the country totaled 15.600 deaths, about 25% of deaths on the planet for a population of 2,7% of the world, with the system completely collapsing, people dying in ambulances due to lack of hospital beds, others dying in hospital beds due to lack of oxygen, the President of the Republic informed the nation: “We are working, despite a very serious problem that we have been facing since the beginning of last year. But Brazil has been setting an example. We are one of the few countries that is at the forefront in search of solutions”.

Cruelty is only paralleled by cynical effrontery, and the buff opera of the first year of government gave way to tragedy. There are many good reports in the national and international press about the catastrophe that has already caused more than 350.000 deaths and millions of people infected;[ix] again, we can leave the chronicle aside and finally get down to the crux of the whole problem.

It is doubtful that we can see there only effects of the purest (and due to the circumstances, nefarious) incompetence. Everything seems so deliberate, so orderly, that it makes us suspect that there is something more, a certain method in the construction of this horrifying scenario, a profound reason for these effects, so apparently disastrous and so fatally effective. Recently, a detailed survey carried out by the Center for Research and Studies in Health Law at the Faculty of Public Health at the University of São Paulo and the NGO Conectas Human Rights analyzed 3049 government regulations issued in 2020 related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The overall conclusion is shocking and speaks for itself: “at the federal level, more than the absence of a focus on rights, already observed, what our research revealed is the existence of an institutional strategy for the spread of the virus, promoted by the Brazilian government under the leadership of the Presidency of the Republic”.[X]

Here we are in a position to pose the crucial question, which can be formulated as follows: to what extent can chaos, and in this specific case a health chaos with dramatic economic consequences, serve a project of power?

The Chaos Strategy

“Chaos is coming” (Bolsonaro, March 2021).

Let us return for a moment to the speech by federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro from which we started. In view of the terrible glorification of torture, little emphasis has been placed on a passage which nevertheless, for our subject, must function as a comprehensive touchstone. There, past and present come together thanks to the permanence of the same struggle between two parts of the nation, and once again there would have been a resounding defeat of one of them: “they lost in 64, they lost now in 2016”, says the speaker, interweaving the temporal threads and establishing a continuum between yesterday's hit and today's hit.

Underlying understanding: the past has not passed and its effects slide into the present; the time of the dictatorship is introduced into the democratic period and is expressed in the same bellicose endeavor that, although carried out by new soldiers, continues today, driven by the desire to defend the same values ​​of yesteryear: family, childhood, anti-communism , the army, Brazil, God. Democracy is destined to repeat the steps of dictatorship.

What kind of secret link might there be between these two times? The constellation of references does not fail to maintain strong coherence and, by embracing a kind of interpretation of national history, suggests that the essence of Bolsonarism, in fact, transcends the leadership itself circumstantially embodied in a controversial character. It is possible that Bolsonarism has less to do with Bolsonaro than with the deep roots of a nation whose formation has always been marked by authoritarianism and violence as a means of social organization and insertion in the world market: in the 30th century, slavery, in instead of being a pre-capitalist remnant, it was coupled with export-oriented production; in the 40s and 70s, the incipient industrialization was the result of an alliance between the bourgeoisie and a fascist dictator; in the XNUMXs it fell to the military dictatorship to elevate the country to capitalist modernity (“conservative modernization”, as they say).[xi]

Less a lone wolf than a spokesman for an authoritarian temptation that runs through Brazilian history – as if authoritarian solutions were always the only ones at hand, constituting a destiny, and that is why on that April 17, 2016 we witnessed a origin staging instead of the one original scene – the captain seemed to many to be Brazil's definitive insertion into the neoliberal mechanism, uncomfortably blocked by the 1988 social-democratic constitution. with the business community, this chicago-boy seems to cherish the desire to repeat in Brazil the neoliberal experiment that knew on-site visit as a professor at the University of Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Not by chance, in November 2019, when Chile was upturned by demonstrations in favor of a new constitution, it inspired, in Brazil, strong resistance to the social security reform proposed by Guedes (who intended to implement in the country a capitalization system identical to the Chilean one) , the sophisticated academic couldn't contain himself: “Don't be scared if someone asks for the AI-5. Didn't it happen once? Or was it different? Taking the people to the street to break everything. That's stupid, that's dumb.”

In the Bolsonarist period, the threatening invocation of Institutional Act No.o December 5, 1968 – the toughest legislation of the dictatorial period and responsible for the implantation of state terror[xii] – as an instrument for producing the conditions of governance; as if to say: “don't forget what we can do!”.

Other outbursts by the president only confirmed this penchant for unilateral and violent resolution of political conflicts, in the wake of the worst national tradition. “People don't seem to see what the people are going through, where they want to take Brazil, towards socialism. (…) Those who decide whether the people will live in a democracy or dictatorship are their Armed Forces”. “I am really the constitution”. “I am the guarantor of democracy”. “My Army does not go to the streets to comply with the decree of governors”. And to the words were added, in two years of government, insidious signs of the authoritarian turn: recurrent Bolsonarist demonstrations calling for the closure of the National Congress and the STF; monitoring by the intelligence service of civil servants and intellectuals critical of power (the most notorious case was that of sociologist Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, UN rapporteur on human rights in Syria); trials and arrests based on the still-current National Security Law, enacted by the military regime; an uncontained fascination with the decree of the State of Siege as a fundamental measure to combat the pandemic.

The question is to understand how this authoritarian project had to adapt to the pandemic, whose effects certainly raised obstacles to the free course of Bolsonarist pretensions, paralyzing moral guidelines, postponing indefinitely the intended neoliberal reforms and, above all, jeopardizing the project of re-election in 2022.

The simple denial of the seriousness of the pandemic (“little flu”) was a first tactic that had to be adapted to the increase in the number of cases and deaths; over time, the disease became the work of Chinese communism to destabilize the West (“comunavirus”) or a kind of divine punishment for the moral bankruptcy of society (in April 2020 Bolsonaro supported the national fasting initiative, in his words, to “rid Brazil of the coronavirus”). At a certain point, however, when it became clear that the problem could not be ideologically circumvented, the open confrontation of forces seems to have emerged as a viable alternative in order to mobilize the Bolsonarist base.

As revealed by a major piece of investigative journalism by the magazine Piaui, at a presidential summit meeting, on May 22, 2020, cornered Bolsonaro declared himself determined to intervene in the STF, a timeliness that was dissuaded by his military advisors: “this is not the time for that”, temporized General Augusto Heleno, your right arm.[xiii]

Maybe it wasn't, in mid-2020, the right time. But could one not seriously begin to work on preparing the time conducive to this definitive step? As the famous passage from the 18th of brumaire, men make their own history, but not as they wish, “because they are not the ones who choose the circumstances under which it is made”. This harsh assertion, however, is counterbalanced by an observation made in the drafts of the german ideology: "Circumstances make men, just as men make circumstances".[xiv]

Now, in the face of such an absurd set of declarations, gestures and omissions by the federal government during the pandemic, the suggestion of discerning the reason for the effects of the free course of the disease in Brazil in a “strategy” (the term of that term) is irresistible to the analyst. study cited above) of producing circumstances that culminate in social upheaval and political chaos, opening the doors to a self-coup or, as many Bolsonaristas repeat, a “constitutional military intervention” with Bolsonaro in command.

To understand this bizarre idea, it is necessary to briefly refer to the Brazilian Constitution and an aberrant particularity of it, contained in article 142, which deals with the role of the military: “The Armed Forces, constituted by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, are national institutions permanent and regular, organized on the basis of hierarchy and discipline, under the supreme authority of the President of the Republic, and are intended for the defense of the Fatherland, the guarantee of constitutional powers and, at the initiative of any of these, law and order” .

It is symptomatic that the only mention of the word “homeland” in the constitutional text occurs there. A small sign is capable of revealing an entire trauma. The wording of the article, which retains much of its counterpart in the 1967 Constitution granted by the military, weighs like a sword of Damocles on the democratic regime. According to bolsonaristas, Bolsonaro himself and many generals, would constitute the franchise for military “intervention” with the aim of reestablishing the constitutional order threatened by clashes between the powers or by serious social upheavals. Even important constitutionalists thus interpret the article.

In the opinion of one of the most distinguished Brazilian jurists, the text states that any power that feels constrained, especially by other powers, can summon the Armed Forces to, acting as a “moderating power”, “punctually restore law and order”. Strictly speaking, it would not be a rupture, but a restoration of order and harmony. And more, according to the same jurist, if the executive power is involved in the dispute that threatens the constitutional order, “not the President, part of the conflict, but the Commanders of the Armed Forces, it would be up to the exercise of the Moderating Power”.[xv]

The trap is camouflaged in the vagueness of the idea of ​​“order”, which is not defined anywhere and therefore needs to be interpreted. First, a brutal inversion of the democratic idea that politics guarantees and regulates the use of force is perpetrated: everything happens, as if force guarantees policy. Second, the military institution that has the prerogative of ultimate defender of order also plays the role of interpreter of its meaning: there is a serious threat to the constitutional order, to the point of legitimizing the military action of intervention in the powers, when the commanders of the Armed Forces so decide and succeed in mobilizing the troops.

In summary, although sovereignty is said to emanate from the people, it is as if the wielders of force de facto held sovereignty; it is difficult to identify who the people are, but everyone knows who the military is.[xvi] They arise as a power legibus solutus whose exercise of moderation allows them to issue the last word on the political order of the nation (and the outrageous validity of the amnesty law only proves this).[xvii] At the limit and without forcing the words, it is a possible reading of article 142 that fits Bolsonarism like a glove, as can be deduced from the captain’s terms, which deserve rereading after this brief constitutional excursion, as they gain an exact meaning: “Whoever decides if the people are going to live in a democracy or dictatorship, it is their Armed Forces”.

Disputes between constitutional powers, disorder, social upheaval, large-scale demonstrations like the Chilean ones in 2019, looting caused by hunger, and so on. Everything and anything can be understood, according to the intentions of the interpreters, as a serious threat to order, a chaotic situation to be served and a “legal” franchise, as Bolsonaristas say, to the effectuation of an authoritarian step that a head like Bolsonaro craves with so much ardor that sometimes we catch him thinking aloud. Just as the coup against Dilma Rousseff in 2016 repeated the military coup of 1964, it is not absurd, on the contrary, it seems natural to conceive the calculated forge of a coup within the coup, such as that of 1968, which would be repeated in today's shattered Brazil by the pandemic – an AI-5 updated by necropolitics. It is on this interpretation that Bolsonarism is betting, and this explains much of the positions of the President of the Republic since mid-2020.

It is very likely that the era of Latin American barracks has been left behind. Not out of detachment from authoritarianism; far from it. It is just that it was discovered that taking advantage of the shortcomings of an incomplete democracy, although a little more laborious, is much more efficient for advertising and, consequently, for business. The terrible consequences of the pandemic appear as a propitious occasion for the acceleration of the circumstances that condition this authoritarian step.

The sanitary exceptionality prefigures the political exception; Necropolitics, well supported by the remnants of Brazilian authoritarianism and with the complacency of the capital shielded by Guedes, can't wait to finally free itself from the shackles that hinder it, prepares (let's go back to the words of General Heleno) the "moment for this", protecting their own and throwing the rest of the population into the common grave.[xviii] The naturally deadly effects of the disease can be extremely useful, provided they are worked on by the most sordid and 'Machiavellian' (evidently in a non-Machiavellian sense) power calculation: not acting in the face of urgencies, blocking the efforts of others, condemning hundreds of thousands to death, mocking the pain of millions.

The current collapse of Brazilian social life and democracy has opened the gates of hell. Waiting for the chaos he projected and anticipating the epitaph that Brazilian history will reserve for him, the lead Bolsonarism can immediately cry out, full of the feeling of accomplishment and with its usual mischievousness:

For me we go to the sore city,
for me the eternal pain goes away,
for me you go among the lost people.

homero santiago He is a professor in the Department of Philosophy at USP.

This text was written for a dossier of the Politics. Journal of Political Studies dedicated to the effects of the pandemic on politics. It was originally conceived for a foreign reader, which explains the preference for references in languages ​​other than Portuguese, as well as clarifying points that Brazilians may consider obvious.


[I] The name 'Operation Lava-Jato' is understood to mean a set of investigations that took place from March 2014 onwards, which, expressly inspired by the Mani Pulite operation, reached exponents of the Brazilian political world, particularly the PT. In fact, Lula was convicted and arrested in April 2018 (remaining incarcerated for 580 days), which made it impossible for him to participate in the presidential election of that year. Despite the enormous popularity of the operation, the controversies were always intense, especially regarding the undisguised predilection for the figure of Lula and the use of dubious mechanisms of investigation and production of evidence (cf. Nicolas Boucier and Gaspard Estrada, “Lava Jato, the Brazilian trap”, The world, April 11, 2021:

The image of the operation began to be shaken when its exponent, federal judge Sérgio Moro, accepted the position of Minister of Justice for Bolsonaro (the greatest beneficiary of the ex-president’s conviction). In June 2019, the page The Intercept Brazil began to publish text messages exchanged between Moro and prosecutors; even if obtained illegally by hackers, such messages demonstrated that the operation was aimed at the PT from the beginning and the actions were planned according to the electoral calendar and public opinion polls, deliberately committing a series of procedural defects. Finally, between March and April 2021, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) ruled on Moro’s suspicion and the case against Lula was annulled.

[ii] On the use of the Institute of impeachment for reversal of electoral results in Latin America, cf. Anibal Perez-Linan, Presidential Impeachment and the New Political Instability in Latin America, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2007; Lorena Soler and Florencia Prego, “The right and Neo-Coupism in Latin America. A comparative Reading of Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), and Brazil (2016)”, in Democracy and Brazil. Collapse and Regression, org. by Bernardo Bianchi, Jorge Chaloub, Patricia Rangel and Frieder Otto Wolf, New York, Routledge, 2021.

[iii] According to André Singer, author of the best analysis of the Dilma Rousseff government published so far, the perspective of leading Temer to the presidential post took the form of a “project” of neoliberal reaction, with strong support in the party oligarchies, to Lulism: “no it was a change of government, it was a change of political and social regime that was planned” (Lulism in crisis. A puzzle of the Dilma period (2011-2016), São Paulo., Companhia das Letras, 2019, p. 267).

[iv] The official text is in the minutes of the session prepared by the Department of Shorthand, Proofreading and Writing of the Chamber of Deputies:

The video can be seen at Youtube:

[v] There is no doubt that these segments of the Bolsonarist constellation are the most difficult to identify and analyze, and we are aware of how much our indication needs to be deepened, which, however, would not fit here. In particular, two points would have to be deepened and considered in their effects: 1) the movement of classes in the Lula period (between 2003 and 2015); 2) the great demonstrations of June 2013 that stopped the country for more than a month. There seems to be an important connection between the two things; in a still mysterious way, it is as if the 2013 movement, initially leftist and soon appropriated by a new right, had prepared the ground for the emergence of Bolsonarism, following a dialectical turn that would not be strange to that which connects the Weimar Republic to the formation of Nazism and the Biennio Rosso to the political rise of fascism. It is not an exaggeration to say that recent Brazilian history, for better or for worse, derives from the events of 2013, the meaning of which is still disputed. For the reader interested in a narrative of the facts, we refer to the dossier, written still in the heat of the moment, of Modern times, No 678: “Brésil 2013, l'année qui ne s'achève pas”.

[vi] In fact, shaken by Lava-Jato, the left was demonized in the streets and on social networks, frightened by physical and psychological threats – and it is important not to include the detail in the account of mere diffuse feelings: the socialist councilor Marielle Franco was shot in her car, next to the driver, in March 2018, and the Bolsonarist crowd cheered: “one less communist in the world!”; fellow socialist and LGBT activist Jean Wyllys, re-elected federal deputy in the same elections, after repeated and increasingly intense death threats, saying he was tired of living under police protection, resigned from his legislative mandate and went into exile in Berlin.

[vii] One of the exponents of the ideological wing is former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo, who offered an excellent synthesis of his peculiar credo of the war of civilizations in “Trump and the West”, Foreign Policy Notebooks, No 6, 2017:

[viii] There is precedent for trickery: that was how, with censorship and concealment of information, military leaders faced the meningitis epidemic that hit the city of São Paulo in the early 70s; cf. Cristina Fonseca, José Cássio de Moraes and Rita Barradas Barata, The meningitis book: a disease under the light of the city, São Paulo, Segmento Farma, 2004, p. 128 sec.

[ix] Some examples of good reports:

Tom Phillips, “A complete massacre, a horror film: inside Brazil's Covid disaster”, The Guardian, January 24, 2021:

Bruno Meyerfreld, “Au Brésil, une vaccination campaign à l'arrêt, « sabotée » par Jair Bolsonaro”, The world, February 22, 2021:

Ernesto Londoño and Letícia Casado, “A Collapse Foretolt: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbroak Overwhelmed Hospitals”, The New York Times, March 27, 2021:

[X] See rights in the pandemic, bulletin no 10: Mapping and analysis of legal norms for responding to covid-19 in Brazil, São Paulo, January 20, 2021, p. 6, emphasis added:

[xi] The subject is complex and knows an enormous bibliography; for an approximation, including with regard to the authoritarian interpretation of the history of Brazil, see Marilena Chaui, Ideological manifestations of Brazilian authoritarianism, Belo Horizonte, Authentic, 2013; Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, On Brazilian authoritarianism, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2019.

[xii] Among other measures, the act: gave power to the President of the Republic to close the National Congress and the state Assemblies, intervene in states and municipalities, summarily dismiss any public official; suspended the habeas corpus for national security crimes, tightened censorship, made any political gathering not authorized by the police illegal. Often referred to as a “coup within a coup”, the AI-5 tipped the balance of dictatorial power towards the military “hard line”, which marks the beginning of the “years of lead” in which torture and murder were institutionalized as mechanisms of political repression.

[xiii] Monica Gugliano, “I’m going to intervene!”, Piaui, No 167, August 2020.

[xiv] Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2011, p. 25; Marx and Engels, the german ideology, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2007, p. 43.

[xv] Ives Gandra da Silva Martins, “It is up to the Armed Forces to moderate conflicts between the Powers”, Counsel, May 28, 2020:

[xvi] Cf. Jorge Zaverucha, “Civil-military relations: the authoritarian legacy of the 1988 Brazilian constitution”, in What's left of the dictatorship, org. by Edson Teles and Vladimir Safatle, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2010.

[xvii] The institute of Moderating Power is a Brazilian constitutional originality elaborated from the rereading of an idea initially proposed by Benjamin Constant (cf. Oscar Ferreira, “Le pouvoir modérateur dans la Constitution brésilienne de 1824 et la Charte Constitutionelle portugaise de 1826: les influences de Benjamin Constant or de Lanjuinais? Revue française de droit constitutionnel, No 89, 2012). In the charter of 1824, this power was attributed exclusively to the emperor: “Art. 98. The Moderating Power is the key of all Political organization, and is delegated privately to the Emperor, as Supreme Head of the Nation, and its First Representative, so that he may incessantly watch over the maintenance of the Independence, balance, and harmony of the most Political Powers .” “Art. 99. The Person of the Emperor is inviolable, and Sacred: He is not subject to any liability.” Throughout republican history (and it is interesting to remember that the proclamation of the Republic in 1989 resulted from a military coup) an authoritarian interpretation was established – through theory and mainly through the persuasion of weapons – which, basically, attributes this Power to the Armed Forces (as clearly resonates in Ives Gandra's text).

[xviii] A far from insignificant detail: the 88 Constitution established health as a fundamental human right and, to put it into effect, provided for a Unified Health System (SUS) that coordinates health actions throughout the country and at all levels of power ( federal, state, municipal) for free. That is one of the demons of Guedes and Bolsonaro, and the only luck of Brazilians, as the system receives funds linked to tax collection and works at levels that are beyond the scope (and currently sabotage) of the federal government. It is not by chance that many, when vaccinated, make a point of shouting, displaying a motto: long live the SUS! On the side of the federal government, in line with Guedes' neoliberalism and the needs of Bolsonarism's militant bases, a law was recently voted that allows the importation private of vaccines. Chaos, to be successful economically and militarily speaking, needs to clearly distinguish classes: on the one hand, those who can pay for survival, on the other, those who cannot and must die.

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