Why did the former president sleep at the Hungarian embassy?

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

The elective affinities between Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orbán

1.

Currently two hypotheses surround this question that does not want to be silenced.

Former president Jair Bolsonaro's defense claims that he slept there to “maintain contact with authorities in that country”. Let's face it, it's an implausible allegation. To maintain such contacts he wouldn't even need to go to the embassy, ​​let alone sleep there for two nights, in the middle of Carnival. All you would need to do is call, schedule a Zoom call, Skype, or something similar, even if encrypted.

The other, more likely, hypothesis says that, with the passport seized, he performed what in chess is called a “preventive castling”. In those days of uncertainty, fearing arrest, he retreated to a friendly roof, where, in case of need, he could ask for political asylum.

But come on: whatever hypothesis is accepted, the answer to that question is: Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, his far-right supporter, with whom he often exchanges compliments.

2.

But after all, who is Viktor Orbán and what does he want?

To begin with, in power for 14 years, Viktor Orbán is the second longest-serving leader on the European continent, second only to Alexander Lukashenko, from Belarus, in his country's presidency since 1994.

Analysts of various tendencies point out that he is a politician who boasts a complex and sophisticated university education and at the same time is capable of symbolic gestures such as joining firefighters and manual workers in piling up sandbags to stop a flood.

His ability to choose easily identified targets as his country's preferred enemies is also highlighted. One of them, for example, was billionaire and fellow countryman George Soros, characterizing him as a kind of Wizard of Oz willing to control Hungary from behind the scenes of politics. Through this maneuver, Viktor Orbán opposed the political liberalism that dominated the European scene in the 21st century and consolidated the idea that he intends to create a regime that he characterizes as “illiberal”.

In this wake, his control over the media and parliament advanced. He managed to expel most of the university activities that George Soros had financed in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, to Vienna, Austria.

Viktor Orbán founded the party Fidesz, which he still leads today, even when he was a university student, promising to fight for “freedom” after the end of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. However, his critics point to him as the most prominent and enduringly successful authoritarian and autocratic leader in Europe today.

In addition to George Soros, Viktor Orbán pointed out to his audience a varied series of enemies: the immigrant or refugee from the “south of the world” and the Muslim, who he often accused of bringing “terrorist tendencies” to Europe. “Europe for Europeans, Hungary for Hungarians”, is one of his favorite slogans.

He presents himself as a defender of Christian values ​​and the heterosexual family, condemning any other type of sexual-affective relationship.

With such a record of services, he intends to make himself and Hungary an international reference for far-right policies. In addition to Jair Bolsonaro, he is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu and is considered the European leader closest to Vladimir Putin, being critical of the support given by the West to Ukraine, arguing that it is unable to beat Russia in the war fought there. He attended Javier Milei's inauguration in Argentina and is an admirer of Donald Trump, to whom he gives advice. He has at least one advantage over the American: about to turn 61, he looks like a “young man” compared to Trump's 77.

3.

In addition to these “elective affinities”, there is another important factor in Jair Bolsonaro’s preference for the Hungarian embassy. In November 2018, the former prime minister of small North Macedonia, the right-wing Nikola Gruevski, was about to serve a prison sentence, convicted of acts of corruption. On the day he was supposed to report to serve his sentence, he didn't. Three days later he appeared in Budapest, Hungary, and within a week Viktor Órban granted him asylum, which continues to this day. Further research demonstrated that from North Macedonia to Hungary, Nikola Gruevski drove through three other countries, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, always escorted by Hungarian diplomats.

In other words: the Hungarian embassy would indeed be the safest way for the former Brazilian president to remain free, if his arrest were ordered during those carnival days. Even the dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile and the 1964 coup plotters in Brazil respected this right to asylum in embassies, which is a Latin American tradition.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of  Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]

Originally published on the website of France-International Radio.


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