The Time To Choose
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Tanks rolled and soldiers marched through the streets of the Brazilian capital of Brasilia recently. They were ostensibly celebrating the 200th anniversary of the South American country’s independence from Portugal.
But the military parades on Sept. 7 had a different tone this year. In July, while he was accepting the conservative Liberal Party’s nomination for president ahead of a general election that runs from early to late October, President Jair Bolsonaro suggested that he wanted the country’s bicentennial celebrations to become a political rally.
“I call on all of you, on Sept. 7, to take to the streets for the last time … All of you here have sworn to give your life for your freedom,” Bolsonaro said in July, according to CNN. “Repeat with me: I swear to give my life for freedom.”
The bicentennial celebrations did resemble a political rally but no violence occurred, reported the Associated Press.
Still, the rhetoric parroted other leaders with authoritarian tendencies or outright dictators. And borrowing from a movement in the US, pro-Bolsonaro groups on social media platforms have been seeking to grow a “Stop the Steal” movement in Brazil.
Bolsonaro is currently trailing in the polls against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-wing progressive who was sentenced to 12 years in jail on corruption charges but was released on technicalities after serving 18 months. For his part, Lula called for thoughts of “love and union” on Sept. 7.
As his chances of winning appear to be dimming, the Brazilian president seems to be activating his supporters to pull off a revolution with the explicit goal of dismantling the democratic state that Brazil has constructed since the end of the military junta that ran the country until the mid-1980s, argued Miguel Lago, a health policy expert at Columbia University, in the New York Times.
In the meantime, others are working to gain what advantages they can in case Bolsonaro fails to be re-elected and Lula inaugurates a new wave of left-wing reforms resembling his policies when he ran the country from 2003 to 2010.
For example, farmers are rushing to raze as much of the Amazonian jungle as they can under the president’s pro-business policies, the Guardian reported. Indigenous activists who fight against illegal deforestation were recently killed, too, suggesting what’s at stake as some Brazilians seek to exploit their country’s resources. Lula, incidentally, has vowed to crack down on deforestation.
The election is coming. The future of Brazil is in the balance.