Moving Right in Brazil: The Rise of Jair Bolsonaro

Moving left has been a Brazilian political tendency for some time, a tendency affirmed through the 1990s and 2000s with the presidential administrations of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.  But this is the same country also famed for its share of murderous military dictatorships and political convulsions.  The worm would eventually turn.

Between 1964 and 1985, the military privileged itself with direct interventions in civilian and political life, ensuring a line of generals for president in the name of protective emergency.  The trumping of civilian rule in 1964 had come in response to the centre-left reformist government of the Brazilian Labor Party’s João Goulart.  The brutal reaction became an inspirational blueprint for Latin American governments to follow: right wing governments obsessed with corporatist principles and suspicious of civil liberties.

That particular model, and precedent, offers lessons in the coming to power of former army parachutist Jair Messias Bolsonaro.  At the 2016 impeachment vote held in the Lower House of the Brazilian Congress against President Dilma Rousseff (notably cast by a chamber half-filled by members facing various criminal investigations), Bolsonaro recalled 1964, the year when the country was supposedly rescued from the relentless approach of godless communism.  His own ballot, as Perry Anderson reminds us, was dedicated to the conscientious torturer-in-chief, Colonel Carlos Brilhante…

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