Bolsonarism and Its Followers: The Connection with Trump Supporters and Fascist Movements

Written by Manuela Figueira Lorang

On Sunday afternoon, 8th of January, Brazilians lived through a scene similar to the attempted insurrection by Trump supporters taking place in the U.S Capitol. However, the scenes of destruction were more brutal although no deaths were reported. The Brazilian Capital, Brasília is also the Federal District of the country. As promised by Jair Bolsonaro supporters (Bolsonaristas), they invaded the Federal Court of Justice (Supremo Tribunal Federal), threatening politicians, democracy, national security and Brazilian society. Similarly to the invasion on the 6th of January of the US Capitol, Bolsonaro supporters were falsely alleging that the elections were fraudulent and were demanding for military intervention, the end of the Supreme Federal Court and were spreading fake news about the Brazilian Electoral system, in order to have Bolsonaro back in power again. It is worth mentioning that the system of voting in Brazil is done by electronic voting machines, which is a voting system known for its reliability. The system has been used for more than two decades and is considered trustworthy by the majority of Brazilian population, despite false claims of corruption alleged by Bolsonaro supporters.  

Both ex-presidents from the United States and Brazil were from the Far-right and had generated a massive number of supporters over the years. In North America, Donald Trump supporters are recognised by the US flags outside their homes, and phrases such as “make america great again” which was coined by Trump. It is also composed of mainly white men from distinct socio-economic classes, ranging from the lower classes to the upper classes. It reached out not only to rural workers but also to entrepreneurs and big businesses alike. In South America, Bolsonaro supporters, mostly from the same economic classes as Trump supporters, are known for wearing the Brazilian National Football shirt, that was turned into a Bolsonarist symbol, as well as the Brazilian Flag, phrases such as “Mito” (Myth, in reference of being considered a God/Figure that should be devoted) and “Deus acima de tudo, Brasil  acima de Todos” (God above all, Brazil above everybody). Both invasions happened in January, after the elections that announced the victories of Joe Biden and Luiz Inácio da Silva (Lula), as presidents of the United States and Brazil. The Trump supporters were trying to stop the official certification of the US 2020 presidential elections since they believed that the elections were fraudulent and that Trump should be the president. In a similar manner, Bolsonaro supporters were alleging that the elections were a fraud and that Lula should not be considered the President of Brazil.

  Both invasions were violent, however, the US invasion of the Capitol had 5 deaths: one cop that was beaten to death and 4 Trump supporters that died for differing reasons. The invasion of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court did not register deaths, but lots of violence towards journalists and police officers was recorded. The ex-president Jair Bolsonaro was in Orlando, Florida when the invasion happened, and after hours of the anti-democratic event, he issued a Twitter statement saying that what was happening was not his fault, and is associated with left wing demonstrations that occurred in 2013 and 2017. After hours of the invasion the situation was partially under control, more than 1.500 were held in custody in the following days of the attack and the police are looking for other suspects. Lots of names from people that took part in the invasion and attack of the Federal Supreme Court were released by the Brazilian authorities. 

After the anti-democratic event, lots of people took part in demonstrations on the streets against what happened and demanding justice. The phrases most common to hear from Brazilians were “Sem Anistia” (No Amnesty) and “A democracia vive” (The democracy lives) amongst others. After the invasion of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, many were correlating the Bolsonarism to the fascist movement that were held in the country decades ago, known as the Brazilian Integralist Action (Ação Integralista Brasileira) created by Plínio Salgado. It is worth it to mention that it was a fascist party in Brazil but also became a major movement in the country at the time. Its characteristics were similar to the Fascist ideas that were present in Italy at the time, and they wanted the end of other parties in the country. The opposition of the movement was the National Liberation Alliance (Aliança Nacional Libertadora). Some of the symbols of the Fascist movement were the salutation, since they raised their arms like the European Fascists, and also their motto: “God, Nation and Family” (Deus, Pátria e Família), which is reminiscent of Bolsonaro’s slogan. Similarly to the invasion of the Supreme Court in Brazil, the supporters of the Fascist Integralist party invaded and attacked the Guanabara Palace in Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Brazil at the time, in order to overthrow the Getúlio Vargas government. More than 1.500  fascists were held in custody by the police, and although Plínio Salgado didn’t take part in the invasion, he supported it in ideological terms. As a result, he was exiled and went to Portugal, during the Salazar dictatorship. Brazil has been fighting for a long time for its democracy and freedom, not only in colonial terms but also due to the dictatorship of 1964-85 and the fascist and ultranationalist movements that threaten Brazilian democracy.

 The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 is the most important Law of the country as it guarantees all the rights of the Brazilian population. Amongst those rights, crucial matters such as right to vote, education, health, work, safety, childcare and others are covered and should be respected. Brazilians are fighting to have their democracy preserved after so many anti-democratic threats over the years. After the attack on the Supreme Federal Court, the country’s authorities had taken action to guarantee its democracy and serve justice to the anti-democratic demonstrations. A famous Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire,  says that: “Democracy does not pretend to create saints, but do justice” (A democracia não pretende criar santos, mas fazer justiça). Democracy should be respected, as well as the Constitution.

Edited by Uilson Jones, artwork by Manuela Figueira Lorang