This weekend, Brazilians held massive demonstrations against Brazil’s neofascist president in 200 cities across the country. In March, President Jair Bolsonaro characteristically told Brazilians to “Stop whining…” in response to the record high Covid-19 cases. To date, Brazil has witnessed nearly half a million deaths to the pandemic, second only to the United States.
Bolsonaro’s primary defense to his critics throughout the pandemic is that he is defending Brazilian jobs and business owners by refusing federal lockdown measures. But protesters and critics point out that this doesn’t explain his failure to heed international consensus on Covid containment measures including social distancing, or his ignoring of his own health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, calls for national restrictions early in the pandemic. Mandetta was fired soon after.
The Brazilian Congress launched federal inquiries into which entities were responsible for what will likely be by year’s end, the highest number of Covid deaths in the world. Bolsonaro and his cabinet spent most of the pandemic hawking fraudulent cures such as chloroquine as well as promoting herd immunity to avoid shutting down the economy.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Bolsonaro’s administration followed hand in hand with Donald Trump’s populist playbook. Instead of using twitter as a propaganda pulpit, Bolsonaro prothelasized in traditional media every chance possible to declare that the virus was just a “little flu”. Like Trump, he also joined his supporters in maskless rallies, complete with shaking hands and hugging babies… maskless.
Younger groups are now dying from covid more than last year due to variants. Deaths between the ages of 30-59 saw a jump from January March by 317%, versus 223% overall. In March, there were nearly no hospital beds in most of Brazil.
Bolsonaro rejected a contract for 70 million doses from Pfizer in August 2020. This put Brazil behind the eight ball. Although there is a currently a stilted vaccine roll out, experts expect things to get worse before they get better. The people have a lot to say about this.
It’s important to understand that not all protests are the same.
A manufactured uprising is exactly what paved the way for Bolsonaro. These protests lived sympathetically in the minds of American media consumers and we basically rooted for the wrong side. Well, at least some of us did.
Basically, a messy behind-the-scenes affair involving the US intelligence, Russia cyber actors, American media, a squadron of “expanded state” actors, resulted in a fictional destabilized appearance of the still young leftist, Workers Party government.
This resulted in the imprisonment of the most successful and beloved president in Brazilian history, Luiz “Lula” da Silva (who was poised to win the next election) and the subsequent impeachment of his successor and the first woman president, Dilma Rousseff.
What we saw on American TV was wrongfully assumed to be mass protests for revolution against an oppressive government. News outlets reported on the ‘chaos’ and corruption in Brazil proved to be the work of a disinformation campaign. Sadly, the answer was right in front of us.
The crowds tell the story.
The 2015-16 “anti-corruption crowds” were a homogenous ocean of white Brazilians, wearing the national flag colors: green, yellow, and blue. The massive crowd warned against the evils of socialism hidden in the agenda of the first truly democratic government in Brazilian history. They were calling for the end of government policies that insured college education for Black citizens, equal employment protections for women, and government assistance for families living in poverty.
These ideas got lost in translation. Understandably illusioned by the Arab Spring uprisings and the tide of BLM and anti-Trump protests, most Americans wrongfully assumed the large Brazilian protests were kindred struggles.
Here’s a tip for next time, check the colors. Just like in the States, a crowd of people wearing the American flag may tell you everything you need to know.
In comparison, what we witnessed this weekend was a diverse group of Brazilians mourning the losses of loved ones, slashed social programs for lower-class workers, students, and Indigenous populations. Clad in red and black, colors representing leftist politics and prioritizing people over profits, this crowd brings to the fore issues representing the masses including rights for LGBTQ, disabled, teachers, students, elderly…etc.
Above all these things is the immediate threat which was a lack of federal vaccination measures. Labeling the president “homicidally negligent”, select Brazilian media slammed Bolsonaro for months, while others under government control buried the lede.
“Bolsonaro’s killer stupidity over the coronavirus pandemic has crossed every single line. It’s time for him to abandon this criminal recklessness and at least pretend to have the ability and maturity to lead a nation of 212 million at such a dramatic moment in its collective history. Enough tomfoolery with the vaccine!”– Folha de São Paulo Newspaper
While you watch the media coming out of Brazil this week, remember- you’ll want to cheer for the guys in the red jerseys advancing the ball.