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International eyes on the Brazilian elections, a race for the Deep Country

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waves to supporters during a campaign rally in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil on October 7, 2022 [MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP via Getty Images]

The alliance of pro-democracy actors around Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's run for the presidency won over almost half of the Brazilian constituency, gathering 48.4 per cent of votes for the former Chief-of-State, who barely closed the race on 2nd October. However, the slight 1.6 per cent who set Lula apart from a first-round victory had a much larger weight than mere percentage points, as his opponent—the current far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro—jumped from 31 per cent at the opinion polls, to 43.2 per cent at the official results. At this point, assessments are purely speculative, but Bolsonaro's bounce revitalised conservative zealots—until then, considerably ashamed and hesitant following his government's bravados and fiascos. Newly emboldened far-right voters unfurled flags and banners, once again.

The challenges of Lula's campaign shifted: From growing a diverse wave unified to expelling the backward fore-front, to now understanding and dealing with a population parcel who—despite being aware of such backward hardships—decided to take to the streets to renew and bolster a reactionary power.

The current month demands double stamina from a campaign mobilising much hope for a more humane country. It was pretty touching—among many positive demonstrations abroad—to see the bulk of Brazilian voters in occupied Palestine choose Lula against pro-Bolsonaro preliminary results in Israel. From there, it was pretty evident the worldwide ideological war waged in the biggest country in Latin America.

Outside, an Organised Far-Right

The American strategist, Steve Bannon—far-right guru since Brexit's successful use of personal data to create political results—has a keen interest in the current contest between Lula and Bolsonaro. In Brazil, the axe may fall either way, on an ideological balance connecting Donald Trump in the US, Viktor Orban in Hungary, and Giorgia Meloni in Italy—the first Italian Prime Minister avowedly fascist since the rise and fall of Benito Mussolini.

In a democracy-struggling Latin America, the far-right watches with growing concern several countries leading away from its sphere of influence, as Brazil may take its ambitions further apart. Recently, Bannon told BBC that his discussions with "Eduardo [Bolsonaro, the President's son] are about developing a populist-nationalist movement in Latin America … trying to be an interchange point, intending to secure many connections among people". His key topics, however, are much less innocent than "learning to lobby, send messages, build networks and so forth"—as chastely explained by the supremacist guru.

In his book War for Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right (Penguin, 2020), the American writer, Benjamin Teitelbaum, recollects the first manipulative experiences by Bannon-adjacent extremist groups planning to draw target individuals from the mainstream and expose them to tailor-made messages, designed to delegitimise traditional sources of information and radicalise political support. In the Brexit case, the social media experience included targeting a particular constituency in Great Britain, with ads reaching 169 million views only, in the campaign's final days.

Looking into the connection between Steve Bannon and the late conspiracy theorist, Olavo de Carvalho—Bolsonaro's Guru—Teitelbaum pointed out political-applied scatological beliefs as the far-right method to confront modern democratic systems and civilisation values. Something very similar to what is happening in Brazil.

OPINION: Palestine favourite Lula and friend of Israel Bolsonaro head for presidential runoff

Democracy—for good or bad—tries to protect universal freedoms scorned by supremacists. Democracy creates mechanisms to restrain the assault on much-desirable assets for neoliberal elites. Therefore, the alliances between this upper-class and occasional radicals are pretty handy. With such an enticement, Bolsonaro rose to power. Nonetheless, such extremist waves may drag on for years and beyond, and seize the local population in increasingly perilous prospects.

The merger of politics and scatology creating masses of zealots in Brazil was once driven by Bolsonaro's pledge to move the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—as Israel tries to claim the city, calling upon itself ancient myths of Solomon. The narrative has mobilised Neo-charismatic Christian trends, supporting Bolsonaro and lobbying to buy Israeli weapons and technology, fuelling the military police, agricultural oligarchies and political surveillance.

The Arab normalisation with Israel created a new window of opportunity to move the embassy after an early backlash, particularly as the recently-appointed British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, nods to the occupation, intending to expand worldwide far-right connections. Once again, the Brazilian embassy may become a target in case of Bolsonaro's victory—an inconceivable scenario with Lula as President, particularly adopting Celso Amorim's diplomatic approach, which carefully regards the Palestinian interests when taking strategic positions. Yet, by appealing to the Christian Zionist audience, Israel seemingly aided Bolsonaro in reaching new highs with his first-round results.

In Brazil, the North-east Inspires

There is still a vicious, slavocrat, and colonised Brazil—to which Lula's character embodies the despised blue-collar worker, the African and Indigenous, the unemployed and poor, so feared, vilified, persecuted and slaughtered by the racist colonial thoughts. Over the years, the right-wing elites have labelled the much-popular former President as a "crook," planning to crystallise Lula's media image associated with corruption scandals from his government era. Dragging the middle class to Bolsonaro's zealotry, the ruling forces insist on branding the Workers' Party's candidate as a former convict—despite Lula's acquittal on all charges after an intensive law fare campaign. Indeed, the guise of "crook Lula" whitewashes deep-rooted racism and classism in the top niches of Brazilian society.

Nevertheless, this perverted side struggles to reach the deep layers of a rebellious and outraged Brazil, enduring the harsh reality of exploration and dispossession, a long-lasting policy dragging families to homelessness, returning them to the hunger map, and marginalising women, in general. Brave matriarchs try to raise their children, despite gender-based violence, misogyny, and unemployment or under-employment—in a country much-familiar with juggling despair and creativity as a day-to-day survival venture.

Such rebelliousness is within the historical memory of many struggles that shaped the Brazilian people. The North-eastern communities—with native Lula as part and parcel—proudly raise a long tradition of resistance against slavery and colonialism. Such a legacy is much-evident in many struggles, including the Malê revolt in Salvador, the Quilombo dos Palmares in Alagoas, and the independence celebration on 2nd July in Bahia, when the locals expelled Portuguese soldiers in 1822—months before the national mark of 7th September. The North-east now holds much pride in leading the votes for Lula and democracy.

In the electoral maps—blue and red for each candidate—Brazil is seemingly divided by half. Yet, the Deep Country, struggling for life and joy is everywhere, in every region—the precise fraction that challenges Lula's dialogue capacity.

First-round election map according to Bolsonaro and Lula's vote share [UOL]

The path to convert the campaign rhetoric to an even more pleasant marriage proposal to the right-wing elite may be pointless by now. These forces already have a reinvigorated candidate compromising the State to privatisation and neoliberalism. Such a stance was quite evident as the defeated right-wing governor of São Paulo promptly said "no" to Lula, and gave "unconditional" support to Bolsonaro—after a bitter third place in the electoral polls.

There is a real chance of a fresh start in Brazil—despite a conservative congress, newly-elected. However, this opportunity will have to take the streets, the households, the favelas and villages, following the paths chosen by the progressive campaign. Which tone, who to speak? These are the questions for the TV and social media ads and physical rallies all over the country.

There is a massive hope in Latin America that Brazil may add its voice to a continental uprising against coup-d'états, colonialism and imperialism—ailments afflicting everyday life for too long, choking and subduing the native populations. People struggling for liberation abroad also hope that the fourth-largest democratic country in the world swings in favour of social justice and self-determination. Among these people, surrounded by walls and checkpoints, there is the small Palestinian community, hoping for a turn of events in contemporary Brazil.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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