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Adrian Wiszniewski, The Sculptor's Nightmare
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By MARIANA LINS COSTA*

The “psychological case” of Bolsonarist anti-intellectualism in the light of Dostoyevsky’s “The demons”

From a certain perspective, perhaps it is reasonable enough to interpret the current surreal Brazil from a rereading of the work The demons, the only one of an openly political nature written and published by Dostoyevsky in the distant Russia of the distant year of 1871. And, even, perhaps it is, surprisingly, in multiple aspects. The hatred of science, intellectuals and artists that today, for example, not only haunts us, but even kills us – given the openly anti-scientific “strategy” adopted by the government in “combating” the pandemic[I](although, not for that reason, not very profitable) – is made explicit in this work, with immense power of synthesis. See, in this sense, the following excerpt: “A Cicero has his tongue cut out, a Copernicus has his eyes put out, a Shakespeare is stoned to death [...]. Slaves must be equal: without despotism there has still been neither freedom nor equality, but in the herd there must be equality”.[ii]

In this significant excerpt, we have an amalgamation of a certain psychology that will be seen in the novel as endowed with a political ideal consistent with it, and with that of political strategies for the attainment of this ideal. Psychology, because Dostoyevsky will artistically represent the motives that underlie a hatred so visceral as to advocate the annihilation and outrage of future artists and scientists who would stand out throughout history in the manner of a Cicero, a Copernicus, a Shakespeare; political ideal and its resulting strategies, because this hatred, generated within certain individuals belonging to a certain culture, is not politically neutral, and even, as suggested in the novel, lends itself in a special way to manipulation. That the psychological type in question is that of a resentful maniac and that his ideals and political strategies are veritable delusions is a value judgment even shared by the writer, but a value judgment that, by itself, is not capable of preventing this type with its purposes and strategies unfolds as a “social event”. For even though Dostoevsky had declared that the individuals who would embody such a type would be true “abortions of nature”, unworthy of literature, on the other hand he saw in his artistic representation, the explanation of a social event, liable, despite its absurdity, to become a possibility, perhaps a kind of general rule in society – in case strategies somehow reach their end.[iii] And, at this point, it is worth recalling the time when the philosopher of the absurd, Albert Camus, raised Dostoevsky, saying that he and not Marx was the true prophet of the XNUMXth century, given that it was the Russian writer who foresaw the triumph of power over society. justice;[iv] when power, despite the vapors and legends that surround it, is not essentially antagonistic to mediocrity – see, in this sense, what types of influencerswe have, in our XNUMXst century, on the Twitters and Instagrams of life.

Em The demons, the psychological-political amalgam synthesized in the above excerpt is embodied in an exemplary way by the character who utters it, who is the clandestine political activist of the novel, Piotr Stepanovitch – who, precisely, we take here as a kind of literary double of our president Jair Messiah Bolsonaro. In the type represented by Piotr Stepanovitch – and, by extension, in Bolsonaro –, we witness how deep resentment for one's own mediocrity, when associated with an excessive desire for dominance and primacy, can lead to (or be the key to carrying out) a crazy and cruel “political” project. If one of the first tasks that Piotr sets himself once in power is to “lower the level of education in science and talent”, this is because, as he observes, the high level of science and art is only accessible to superior talents, when superior talents, according to him, have always taken power and been despots.[v]“The thirst for education is already aristocratic”, he summarizes; and it is, we might add, in so far as it supposedly consists of the ticket able to make ascend, both economically and socially, within institutions and power complexes not organized under aristocratic molds in the strict sense, but under molds, perhaps, democratic, as is the case of higher education institutions when accessible to classes in which they traditionally do not he was (and here it is worth noting, the double difficulty of Piotr, since, in addition to, according to him, devoid of superior talent, he did not come from a wealthy family, which in Russia at the time concerned mainly the landowning gentry ). On the one hand, therefore, it is because Piotr recognizes himself as mediocre compared to those who, according to his perspective, would be endowed with a superior talent, that he understands them as “despots”; since such “superior talents” precisely because of the superiority of their talent would occupy the positions of power and prominence (in societies with some social mobility) that individuals like him – mediocre, despite endowed with an excessive desire for dominance and primacy –, craved . On the other hand, it is due to this very recognition that Piotr and his people, whether manipulated or not, need a project of power that reduces the majority to the most abject conditions, that eliminates the coming Ciceros, Shakespeares and Copernicus – so that, in this way, despite their mediocrity, and precisely through it, they can dominate. Hence, the character concludes with the following postulates: “We don't need education, enough science! Without science there is enough material for a thousand years, but we must organize obedience.”[vi] Postulates from which it can be inferred that the organization of obedience is seen, by itself, as a precondition for reducing the majority to the condition of mediocrity, in the name of the despotism of mediocrity itself (which, in any case, by becoming a despot would no longer be so mediocre like that). Something that, seen from Brazil today, resonates with the behind-the-scenes role played by our Armed Forces, for which, as informed by the, for now, somewhat forgotten General Pazuello: “It's that simple: one commands and the other obey”[vii] – although in this case (as was also the case with the group commanded by Piotr) obedience does not seem to be so organized.

The nerve point, however, is that the drama of recognizing one's own mediocrity is not exclusive to the type represented by Piotr, rather it is the drama of practically everyone who has experienced the progress of the lights of the periphery, be it a global, national, local periphery. that are not mutually exclusive, rather they add to each other. But what would be the drama in being an average person, who can only be called mediocre in a pejorative sense? Isn't the middle ground the secret of life? And there you have it. For if there is one thing that we should learn from Dostoevsky, to the detriment of Nietzsche, it is that it is naive or, at the very least, unfair to call “the instincts of modern man” gregarious or to judge that his ideal is something akin to an “animal”. herd”.

Em The idiot written and published a few years before The demons, we find synthesized in a very direct and simple way what would be the ideal of a human being conceived as a side effect of the unequal progress of the Enlightenment, that is, what would be the dearest desire, envisioned by Dostoevsky, as the most central, spiritual and characteristic of individuals formed within late modern societies, which the writer understood under the banner of nihilism. And this desire concerns being a recognizably original, powerful, outstanding individual; irreplaceable in the manner of a Napoleon, a “great man”, a genius, the self-mademan– what today could be called a celebrity, millionaire, billionaire. After all, as predicted by one of the secondary characters of The idiot, for a man of his time and his tribe there was nothing worse than knowing that he is considered a weak, common, ordinary and mediocre individual, devoid of any talent and uniqueness - and this intolerable to the point of making it preferable to be considered a knave than a common and ordinary individual. And if the mediocre character in question was willing to make use of the unscrupulous and shameful means available to them, this was not even due to bad character on his part, but, rather, exclusively, to his attempt to, through a considerable amount of money, money – inaccessible to him in any other way than the misdemeanor –, to become “an original man in the supreme degree of the word”; since, according to him, a poor man devoid of any specific skill, the son of an alcoholic father and from a broken family: “money is more abject and hateful because it even gives talent. And he will continue to give until the consummation of the world.”[viii]

In a word: in his time, Dostoevsky identified that being a scoundrel was, in most cases, the only way to approach the ideal man parameters of the time. but if in The idiot, the character in question did not manage to be a scoundrel, given the morality in his heart – which, to tell the truth, causes him to be forgotten throughout the novel – this is not the case of Piotr de The demons.  For what marks the type incarnated in Piotr is not so much the resentment arising from the consciousness of one's own mediocrity when compared to individuals awarded as geniuses and originals, given that such resentment is, from the Dostoevskian perspective, almost universal to individuals from the outskirts of modern and liberal European-style societies, today also American. What characterizes the type embodied in Piotr is a combination in which a high degree of this resentment, instead of stifling it, in the form of low self-esteem, inflames an immeasurable desire for dominance and primacy, which, associated with pure and simple bad karatism, can lead to real catastrophes on the social level, especially if the individual in question has at his disposal the necessary mechanisms to manipulate, on a large scale, that same resentment in those who alone could not resort to ignominy in the name of an instant, a brief illusion of the supremacy of its mediocrity and weakness as strength and truth. A moment of catastrophic paroxysm, in the classic way, that Bolsonaro even seemed to be orchestrating in the announced riot of 2022 – at least until his frustrated advance, whether deliberately or not, to September 7 (which, in any case, , earned him a portentous cover photo in Veja) –, if he could keep it inflated in his minions the urge for dominance and primacy to the point of preventing them from again drowning in resentment at their own mediocrity; resentment that, in an organized world like ours, it is important to emphasize, does not concern only the minions greens and yellows or your favorite bad guy at the time.

Here we have, perhaps, a key to interpreting Colonel Carlos Alberto Pellegrino's assessment, widely publicized in the media, about the character of Jair Messias Bolsonaro, when the latter, as a first lieutenant in the army, was his subordinate. For Colonel Pellegrino, according to the documents presented by Luiz Maklouf Carvalho in his book The cadet and the captain, wrote in Bolsonaro’s file, in 1983, that he, in that year, gave “shows of immaturity by being attracted to a ‘gold prospecting’ enterprise”, “shows” that are clarified as “demonstrations of excessive ambition to accomplish- financially and economically”. The colonel was also kind enough to highlight, almost forty years ago, the fantastic nature of Bolsonaro's aspirations - it called his attention that the ambitions of his then commander were based on "legends" and "stories" that consisted of "always in fanciful accounts of fortunes made overnight” –; just as he highlighted his obstinacy, since even when Bolsonaro saw his first venture in the gold mines end up with the donkeys in the water, he continued to reaffirm “his ambition to seek, by other means, the opportunity to fulfill his aspiration of being a rich man".[ix]An aspiration that, despite its mediocrity, apparently achieved some success, given that it is currently customary for the Bolsonaro family to buy luxury properties with cash.[X] The colonel went even further in his typological sketch of the then unsuspected future president Bolsonaro, mathematically bringing him closer to the type elaborated by Dostoyevsky's pen; when the colonel stated, for example, that despite the lack “of logic, rationality and balance in the presentation of his arguments”, Bolsonaro “had the permanent intention of leading junior officers”.[xi] An ambition that cannot be said that Bolsonaro has been exactly unsuccessful in it; after all, there are not few journalists and political analysts who seem convinced that the president, precisely because of his crazy mediocrity and coup plotter, is humiliating the beautiful civic posture of the Armed Forces and its high generalship; as if the Armed Forces had become a special type of victim that, in return, puts tanks on the streets. That our peripheral tanks are old in the eyes of the developed world of war machines, does not imply that locally they do not have the firepower to annihilate any of us, just remembering that the rates of violent death in Brazil, exceed by far off the same rates as countries openly declared at war.

In fact, it does not take Dostoyevsky to conclude that the Bolsonarist power “project” has as one of its clearest and most urgent purposes to attack, undermine and make the development of science, arts and education unfeasible; an attack concentrated especially on higher education and research institutions. The cuts in series applied to the education portfolio, since 2019, are not new to anyone. As recently announced, the CNPq had, in 2021, the lowest budget in the last two decades, so that of the 3.080 requests for doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships approved in its last public notice “only 396 (13%) will receive the scholarships in fact".[xii] With regard to CAPES, the cuts concentrated in 2019 were concealed in 2020 through unprecedented rules for grant distribution; when here the numbers vary in different reports: there is talk of cuts from 8000 to more than 11000 scholarships in 2019,[xiii] and in 2020, cuts of up to 50% in scholarships for graduate programs with grades 3, 4 and 5 – concentrated, as a rule, in the poorest regions – and cuts of up to 20% for programs with grades 6 and 7.[xiv] As for the functioning of federal universities, as we all know, it is not just UFRJ that is at risk of having to close its doors due to lack of funds, especially when face-to-face classes return. And on that horizon there is still the FUTURE-SE, bill 3076/2020, which if approved as warned by many academics, will be the first step “for the State to release itself from public funding of higher education” – something that with or without FUTURE -SE is already a gift.[xv] And, in this sense, it is worth remembering that even basic education, announced as a priority by his government, not only received the smallest budget since 2011, but the Ministry of Education managed the feat of, in times of pandemic and remote teaching, not applying all resources, but only 71% of the little that was destined.[xvi] That the president has also fully vetoed Bill 3477, known as PL da Conectividade, approved by the Chamber and the Senate, which intended to ensure free internet for teachers and students in the public network[xvii], or that the current Minister of Education has also been against this bill for the stupid claim that the distribution of tablets, chips and connection would not be a solution to the problem of remote teaching for young people and children who precisely do not have electronic devices or internet connectivity,[xviii] they are variations of the same mediocrity and resentment that unfold in attack.

Thus, it is not indicative of a difference in substance with the Bolsonarist “project” that the character Piotr Stepanovitch reaches the paroxysm of openly defending the need to eliminate traces of genius in early childhood through the downgrading of education and science, or to expel and execute individuals who have established themselves as minimally talented. When, on the other hand, it is also impossible to deny that the extermination of talent before they can become “superior” is a problem that concerns Brazil long before Bolsonaro. If we think of the immense contingent of black and poor people who had their talents cut off in early childhood, for lack of the minimum material and social conditions favorable to their development; or in individuals who, despite breaking through the siege, had their lives executed for that very reason – and here it is inevitable to pay homage to Marielle Franco; or even if we just remember Darcy Ribeiro's well-known statement that “the education crisis in Brazil is not a crisis, it's a project”; it is not possible to say that a somewhat deliberate policy in favor of “equality in slavery” is exactly new for us.

What is new is that Bolsonaro – perhaps less consciously and more instinctively and clumsily than his literary double – seems to be able to embody this project of permanent crisis in education until nothing is left of it, without greater need for concealment; given his clear aim of restricting the majority to the most abject, limited and limiting conditions, so that an average individual like him could dream of exercising an unlimited despotism that in his “good times” of campaigning for president, he swore would make it possible to machine-gun political opponents. The point, however, that is interesting to highlight here even because it seems an indisputable fact is that the main political “cadres” of the Bolsonaro government, like him, are characterized, as a rule, by an authoritarian eagerness, which is confused with a militancy anti-intellectualist in direct proportion to the absence of the intellectual and professional preparation required for the high positions assigned to him. Thus, what we claim here as a discovery is almost obvious: that the main representatives of Bolsonarism present the two psychological characteristics that most stand out in the character of Piotr Stiepanovitch – an excessive desire for dominance and primacy that is a result (or a kind of Siamese brother ) of a deep resentment for mediocrity itself and hence such an eagerness to be directed in a more concentrated way to those whose knowledge society itself recognizes as superior – which in a situation of a global pandemic unfolded in the genocide that, more or less directly , we all feel it in our skin.

In order to apply the above considerations to our immediate reality, let us go back in time a little, to the moment before the pandemic and analyze, so to speak, the root Bolsonarism.[xx] Because when we think of Damares, or of the former Ministers Abraham Weintraub and Ernesto Araújo, it is almost obvious that the prominence they obtained was due to the anti-intellectualist militancy that, in not a few moments, reached the extreme of flirting with madness. It is worth remembering that the first Minister of Education in the Bolsonaro government, Ricardo Velez, even openly decreed the non-existence of the “idea that higher education should be for everyone”[xx]– which was recently repeated by his newest successor, Milton Ribeiro;[xxx] It is also worth remembering that Abraham Weintraub made a point of dedicating the last issue of his Ministry to the expansion of this non-existence, since he surreptitiously annulled the ordinance that aimed at including blacks, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities in postgraduate courses at federal institutions.[xxiii] In his efforts to maintain the so-called minorities in the equality of slavery, Weintraub, let us also remember, made the “necessity” of police operations in public universities reach the Federal Supreme Court with the paradoxical aim of preventing irregular electoral propaganda; in addition to having tried to institutionalize the ideological espionage and denunciation of students and their parents towards their teachers.[xxiii] Which even fits in with another of the other strategies that lead to the political ideal cherished by the character Pyotr Stepanovitch: “each member of society watches the other and is obliged to report. Each belongs to all and all to each. […] In extreme cases, slander and murder are resorted to”,[xxv] describe without mincing words. Now, perhaps it is even a case of considering that this absurd ex-minister of Education and current executive director of the World Bank, goes even further in fanaticism than Piotr himself, in case we take his reckless statement seriously, in August of last year, that the “Death Penalty can give us back hope”.[xxiv]

In the case of Damares Alves and Ernesto Araújo, the confusion between the disproportionate desire for dominance, the resentment for one's own mediocrity and the discredit of the sciences and “superior talents” reaches the level of the unbearably didactic, insofar as a confusion of this magnitude can be something like didactic. Damares, our Minister for Women, the Family and Human Rights – whose degree of fantastic would possibly not be foreseen even by a Dostoevsky as subject to concreteness –, even postulated the need for science to be subordinated to the Christ of the gospel of financial prosperity with who she talked to in the guava tree; postulate that, in a much more sophisticated debate, although not for that reason less violent, we judged, from the height of our knowledge, closed in the Middle Ages. As widely reported in January 2019, Damares even declared in an interview that the “Evangelical Church lost space in history” by letting the “Theory of Evolution enter schools”, by not “occupying” science. For the minister, it was a kind of paradox that “scientists” had “taken care of this area”, that is, science, that the Evangelical Church had left “science behind […] walking alone”.[xxv]Notably devoid of any trace of genius and, what is much more serious, of a minimally robust academic and cultural background, Damares could only guarantee her superiority and that of her peers in the face of the “despotism” of scientists, through an election voted solely by the God with whom he testified to having conversed.

And in this sense, the extraordinary coincidence that so many Ministers of the Bolsonaro government lied in order to “increase” their academic training is undone: Ricardo Vélez, Weintraub, Ricardo Salles, Dacotelli (the only one massacred by the “increment”) and, once again, our Damares who, in this case too, is exemplary in her original senselessness. After all, when questioned about the master's degrees in "education" and in "constitutional law and family law" that he declared to have, without actually having them, his answer could not confirm with greater precision the thesis that we are defending here. The minister said about her declared titles, although non-existent: "Unlike the secular teacher, who needs to go to a university to do a master's degree, in Christian churches, anyone who is dedicated to biblical teaching is called a teacher".[xxviii] It should be noted that in these various cases that lead to the same thing – the declaration of an academic education (much) superior to what one actually has –, we have, as the master of teachers, the giant Fyodor Dostoyevsky, identified: not exactly acts, but the same “psychological case”, the same “psychological attitude”[xxviii] – which is understood here as characteristic of the phenomenon of Bolsonarism, represented in the figure of its Messiah.

Although we could go on analyzing the countless “pictures” of the Bolsonaro government in this vein, at least until the show in the chloroquine season of the CPI of covid (whose holocaustic dimensions are now revealed with the Prevent Senior scandal), let us content ourselves, to conclude with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, whose delirious desire for primacy was revealed in the macro dimensions of international relations. For in his text entitled “Querer grandeur”, widely publicized by the media before his inauguration, Araújo set himself the task of contesting the “Brazilian diplomatic traditions”, which, according to his own pun, would be the expression of giving up on transforming the Brazil from “a big country” into a “big country”. In a pathological burst of imaginary genius, Araújo advocated that the “desire for greatness is the noblest thing that can exist in a nation that places itself before the world”, and diagnosed that the problem of Brazilians would be precisely to repudiate this desire, which is why, according to him, that we would be satisfied, with regard to international relations, with the condition of “good student in the school of globalism”; and what is worse: a good student who will never want to be the “best”, since wanting to be the “best” is something that goes against the “will to greatness” which, according to him, is precisely what we Brazilians “we repudiate” and that he, freed from the chains of that cave by Olavism, did not. May your “medicine to return to wanting greatness”,[xxix] turned Brazil into an “international pariah”, in his own words in October last year,[xxx] it is hard and bitter proof that “talent” is not the result of something like “wanting greatness”, but, in the very first place, of access to good educational and cultural training, of hard study and work; and perhaps, in the case of the unsurpassably great and extraordinary, such as the Shakespeares and Dostoevskys of the most different areas, also of some kind of innate talent – ​​given by nature, as Kant would say (or by science, as those who work beyond the limits of ethics with genetic mutations; because science, let's face it, despite the Bolsonarist yelp, has always worked beyond the limits of ethics...).

*Mariana Lins Costa is a postdoctoral fellow in philosophy at the Federal University of Sergipe.

Notes


[I]https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2021-01-21/pesquisa-revela-que-bolsonaro-executou-uma-estrategia-institucional-de-propagacao-do-virus.html?fbclid=IwAR1RKWRsxjDpPKuYkYgC3RXOsOrhl-33EqgNCnn-2-jaoVIdAaNRAs6DKVU

[ii]Dostoevsky. The demons. Trans. Paul Bezerra. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2004, p. 407.

[iii]Dostoevskyapoud Frank, J. Dostoevsky: The Miracle Years, 1865-1871. São Paulo: Edusp, 2003, p. 535; 570.

[iv]Camus apoud Ormes, m. The development of Albert Camus's concern for social and political justice: “justice pour un just”. Massachusetts: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., 2007, p, 252n

[v]Dostoevsky. The demons, P. 407.

[vi]Ibid.

[vii]https://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2020/10/22/e-simples-assim-um-manda-e-o-outro-obedece-diz-pazuello-ao-lado-de-bolsonaro.ghtml

[viii]Dostoevsky. The idiot. Trans. Paul Bezerra. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2001, p. 156.

[ix]Luiz Maklouf Carvalho. The cadet and the captain. São Paulo: However, 2019, p. 26; 54.

[X]https://www.cartacapital.com.br/politica/pagar-imoveis-com-dinheiro-vivo-e-habito-na-familia-bolsonaro-mostra-levantamento/

[xi]Luiz Maklouf Carvalho. The cadet and the captain, P. 54.

[xii]https://www.uol.com.br/tilt/noticias/redacao/2021/04/22/cnpq-vai-pagar-so-13-das-bolsas-aprovadas-em-edital-e-frustra-cientistas.htm?cmpid

[xiii]https://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/2019/09/02/capes-deixa-de-oferecer-5613-bolsas-a-partir-deste-mes-e-preve-economia-de-r-544-milhoes-em-4-anos.ghtml

[xiv]https://www.brasildefators.com.br/2020/03/31/capes-corta-bolsas-de-estudantes-de-pos-graduacao

[xv]https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2019/11/22/dossie-detalha-propostas-do-future-se-e-preve-destruicao-do-ensino-superior

[xvi]https://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/2021/02/21/ministerio-da-educacao-nao-gasta-o-dinheiro-que-tem-disponivel-e-sofre-reducao-de-recursos-em-2020-aponta-relatorio.ghtml

[xvii]https://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2021/03/19/bolsonaro-veta-integralmente-projeto-que-assegura-internet-gratis-a-alunos-e-professores-da-rede-publica.ghtml

[xviii]https://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/2021/04/29/milton-ribeiro-diz-que-distribuicao-de-tablets-chips-e-conexao-nao-sao-a-solucao-para-garantir-acesso-ao-ensino-na-pandemia.ghtml

[xx]Here, we will leave aside the, so to speak,problem Olavo de Carvalho, since approaching such a thorny topic would require, to say the least, completely different considerations.

[xx]https://valor.globo.com/brasil/noticia/2019/01/28/ideia-de-universidade-para-todos-nao-existe-diz-ministro-da-educacao.ghtml

[xxx]https://g1.globo.com/educacao/noticia/2021/08/10/ministro-da-educacao-defende-que-universidade-seja-para-poucos.ghtml

[xxiii]https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2020-06-18/prestes-a-deixar-cargo-weintraub-revoga-portaria-de-cotas-a-negros-e-indigenas-na-pos-graduacao.html

[xxiii]https://veja.abril.com.br/politica/ministro-weintraub-quer-que-pais-denunciem-professores/

[xxv]Dostoevsky. The demons, P. 407.

[xxiv]https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br/politica/2020/08/4871753-weintraub-defende-pena-de-morte—pode-nos-devolver-a-esperanca.html

[xxv]https://educacao.uol.com.br/noticias/2019/01/09/damares-igreja-teoria-da-evolucao-escolas.htm

[xxviii]https://noticias.uol.com.br/politica/ultimas-noticias/2020/06/28/quem-sao-os-ministros-de-bolsonaro-que-mentiram-ou-erraram-no-curriculo.htm

[xxviii]Dostoevsky. The idiot, pp. 178; 181.

[xxix]https://www.metapoliticabrasil.com/post/querer-grandeza

[xxx]https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mundo/2020/10/se-atuacao-do-brasil-nos-faz-um-paria-internacional-que-sejamos-esse-paria-diz-chanceler.shtml

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