Here’s the horrific record of Brazil’s new president after just one week in office

Image of Mike Pompeo and Jair Bolsonaro, January 2019
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In his first week of office, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has targeted just about every one of the country’s minority groups (except the ultra-rich, it should go without saying).

During an inauguration speech attended by the likes of Mike Pompeo (US secretary of state), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli PM), and Viktor Orban (Hungarian PM), Bolsonaro declared: “the people have rid themselves of socialism, of inversion of values, of statism and political correctness”.

His apparent endorsement from global elites is a horrid reminder that the powerful often deem indigenous, LGBTQI+, and poor lives less worthy than capitalist growth. Worse is yet to come for Brazil – and perhaps the whole region.

Indigenous groups under Bolsonaro

Brazil’s indigenous groups are facing a “genocide” under Bolsonaro, according to Sônia Guajajara, the country’s most prominent indigenous leader.

Before assuming office, the far-right former military officer said “there won’t be a square centimetre demarcated as an indigenous reserve” under his leadership. “Where there is indigenous land”, he claimed elsewhere, “there is wealth underneath it”. He also lamented that the “Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians”.

Within a day of becoming PM, Bolsonaro used his executive order to transfer the regulation of indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – a wing of government that is, according to the Guardian, “controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby”. Brazil’s indigenous groups have lived in the Amazon region for thousands of years, and the forest reserves that they occupy provide key defences against deforestation. The latest measures will please Brazil’s powerful logging industry. But they are large steps towards a human and environmental catastrophe.

Moreover, indigenous groups believe the colonialist rhetoric found in Bolsonaro’s resentment towards them will intensify the violence they already face. This is all the more concerning in light of Bolsonaro’s plans to loosen gun regulations.

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It is therefore no wonder that Brazil’s indigenous groups say they are facing a “social extermination”.


Many of Brazil’s LGBTQI+ community rushed to get married before the self-proclaimed “proud homophobe” was inaugurated. 2018 saw a 25% spike in same-sex marriages.

Their suspicion that hard-won rights were under threat was justified. Bolsonaro has previously said that “If I see two men kissing in the street, I’ll hit them”, and that he “would be incapable of loving a homosexual son”.

Bolsonaro’s administration has rebranded the ministry overseeing human rights to the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights. Concerns for LGBTQI+ rights were removed from the ministry’s responsibilities, and it is now headed by ultraconservative evangelical pastor Damares Alves.

Bolsonaro has also already dissolved the Ministry of Culture. Brazilian novelist Julián Fuks had warned about Bolsonaro’s likely attack on culture in October 2018, writing:

Culture is one of the things Bolsonaro’s dystopia may well seek to destroy… doing away with work that upsets the value of some notional Brazilian family. But culture doesn’t simply disappear if a government attacks it… These will be years for writing like never before… Years for living.

Bolsonaro and the global threat

As the Canary previously reported, the new alignment between rightwing governments in US, Brazil, and Colombia makes war in South America look increasingly likely.

Within days of Bolsonaro’s election, sources within the Colombian government reportedly aired support for a Brazilian invasion of Venezuela (though Colombia denies this). The US has considerable strategic interests in Venezuela, and decades of US meddling in the country seem once again to be coming to the fore.

Mike Pompeo’s visit to Bolsonaro on 2 January, during which time the two figures discussed “reinforcing democratic governance and human rights in Venezuela”, should therefore be cause for great concern. Since their meeting, moreover, Bolsonaro has demonstrated a willingness to open US military bases in Brazil.

If it’s capitalism, it’s ok

Bolsonaro’s threat to indigenous groups, the LGBTQI+ community, the environment, and peace should be not surprising: he’s been openly fascistic for years.

There’s one thing he doesn’t threaten, however, and this has earned him muted acceptance from the Western political and media elite – including the BBC. And it’s capitalism.

Bolsonaro’s presidency is a cold reminder that, right now, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. We must come together to change that.

Featured image via U.S. Department of State – Flickr

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