Brazil on the Eve of Authoritarian Rule
It’s all true: life in Belo Horizonte before the election of Jair Bolsonaro
The rise of Jair Bolsonaro has been a slow, sulfurous arc, like a warning flare that Brazil’s three-decade democratic project stands on a crumbling foundation. During the past five years of political and economic chaos in Brazil, Bolsonaro slithered from the fringes of national politics to center stage, using social networks and religious media to rally the country’s “Bullets, Beef, and Bible” caucus of gun advocates, ranchers, and evangelicals around a promise that military discipline will return the country to order and progress. His racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, and fascist statements have entranced millions of voters who are desperate for change at any cost. Now, in the wake of Bolsonaro’s victory, Brazil waits to see whether he will turn back the clock to the bloodiest years of the military dictatorship, when university students and other dissidents across the country were shot, abducted, tortured, and disappeared.
The night before what was scheduled to be the final, pivotal debate between Bolsonaro and Workers’ Party opponent Fernando Haddad, twenty-nine-year-old Sarah, an emergency room doctor, and her girlfriend Lívia, a twenty-eight-year-old industrial engineer, were unwinding with beer and cigarettes outside a pub in Savassi, a trendy enclave of restaurants, bars, and cafés in Belo Horizonte, the sixth-largest city in the country. Underneath her unbuttoned flannel, Sarah wore a Roger Waters T-shirt, purchased at his concert a few days earlier.
Chris Feliciano Arnold, writing from Brazil for Harper’s, looks at life in the days before authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro takes control.