By Fernando Haddad
Dear SIPA Students,
Some of you who know me are aware of how proud I am of being a Brazilian. I wear t-shirts that say Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil. I put Brazilian funk music in playlists at parties in Publique, and I’m always using Brazil as an example in class when I’m working for those participation points. However, today I write because the feeling of pride has turned into shame, despair, and fear for those back home. My dear colleagues, Brazil is at the brink of a dangerous presidency. Many of you have probably heard that Jair Bolsonaro has won the first round of the Brazilian elections and has a high chance of becoming Brazil’s next president. Many of you have heard and I, myself, have said that he is Brazil’s version of Trump, but I was wrong. Oh, how I was wrong. I don’t want to get into a senseless fight of who is worst, so I’ll just move on to explain what Bolsonaro has said and defends, and you’ll get the idea.
December 2014, Bolsonaro, who was serving as a Congressman for the 7th time, said that Maria do Rosario, his fellow congresswoman, didn’t even deserve to be raped, and physically pushed her. During Dilma’s impeachment session and in various other occasions he paid homage to Coronel Carlos Brilhante Ustra stating this man was his role model. Coronel Ustra was a military commander during Brazil’s dictatorship (1964-1985) and was known for inserting live rats in women’s vagina’s during their torture. In some occasions, Ustra would take their children to watch their parents suffer in their cells in degradable conditions. In an interview in 2016, Bolsonaro said that one of the biggest mistakes of the dictatorship was to torture instead of killing people. Listening and adhering to these forms of hate speech, many of his supporters have in the last few days attacked over 50 people throughout the country. Among them was a capoeira leader Mestre Moa,from Bahia who was stabbed 12 times and killed just because he was against Bolsonaro. In Rio Grande do Sul, a woman wearing an anti-Bolsonaro t-shirt was pinned down by Bolsonaro supporters and had a swastika carved on her abdomen with a Swiss army knife. Did I mention Bolsonaro´s vice president is an Army General who recently said his son is handsome because of racial whitening?
Jair Bolsonaro thrives off of and promotes an anti-corruption campaign saying the Worker’s Party (Lula da Silva’s Party) and all the left-wing politicians and political parties are corrupt. However, Bolsonaro was recently caught in his own corruption scandal when journalists discovered Walderice Santos, a woman whose husband cared for Bolsonaro’s beach house in Angra dos Reis, had been receiving a government salary for 15 years. She had never stepped foot in Brasilia and appeared to have done no government related work, instead selling açai in the coastal city. Additionally, his political party PSL (Social Liberal Party) was ranked as the least transparent among 35 parties in a recent survey. Bolsonaro’s family has been enriched through their political positions. One of his sons, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who was re-elected to the federal House of Representatives saw a wealth increase of 432% since 2014.
His official government platform looks like a stoned teenager drafted some ideas and put them onto a very bad powerpoint presentation. All over it you can see his campaign slogan “Brazil above everything, God above everyone.” It also clearly shows the criminalization of social movements and the loss of fundamental rights of minorities and the poor. Gaining support from conservative churches and their leaders, Bolsonaro has, just like Trump, created an efficient machinery of spreading fake news. Facebook pages and family Whatsapp groups are filled with outrageous information about the Worker’s Party, his opponent, Fernando Haddad, and everything he doesn’t agree with (ring a bell?).
Now, how bad could his opponent be? Is he Satan? No, it’s a moderate, middle-class, university professor with a Master in Economics and a Doctor’s Degree in Philosophy. He worked as a Minister of Education under Lula’s government, tripling the number of people entering college and increasing the percentage of students who were the first in their family to go to college. He was also mayor of São Paulo and was chosen as the best mayor of Latin America receiving an award from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2016.
Now, I am not explaining this on his behalf just because he has the exact name as I do. In fact, I am not necessarily campaigning for him, and I am fully aware of all the corruption scandals and mistakes the Worker´s Party is accused of. I believe there needs to be a major shift of direction, that those responsible should be expelled, and that the party needs to make serious changes. However, it should be obvious that someone like Bolsonaro that doesn’t have any executive experience; makes racists, homophobic, and misogynistic statements; defends the dictatorship period as if it were a Disney fairy tale; and has a government platform that any policymaker would laugh (or cry) at, shouldn’t be the president of the world’s 5th biggest democracy and a powerful player of the global South.
Now, I know many people here come from countries who face their own challenges, I know that this midterm week is tough and I know how many of you are still digesting the Kavanaugh nomination, but I urge that if you know any Brazilians that can vote, in Brazil, the US or elsewhere, that you reach out to them and ask that they stand up for democracy and for simple human values. There are still a few days left for the elections (October 28th) and it is possible to turn this around. Over 500 thousand Brazilians vote abroad and many people are misinformed, hopeless, or just simply mad with the situation, and it has been a huge struggle trying to show the dangers of his possible presidency and persuade people to vote for the democratic option. So maybe as foreigners your word can count more.
Although I do want people to recognize how bad the situation is, here is a video of John Oliver from Last Week Tonight showing and explaining who this guy is in a funnier and lighter manner.
I hope you will join me in resisting these dark times and use your privilege to defend democracy.
Thank you in advance,
Fernando Haddad Moura
I want to thank those who have shown solidarity in these past few days that haven’t been easy for some of us. Your preoccupation, support and listening to our rants, make all the difference in the world, believe it. If you are interested in taking a stand against Bolsonaro, you can also sign this petition along with some activists, academics from American universities, Brazilians and non-Brazilians that have recognized the danger of this presidency. Here in New York 64,2% of Brazilians voted for Bolsonaro in the first round, in Boston 79,8%, in DC 56,3% and in Miami an overwhelming 80,6%. Your voice is important and what you say to your Brazilian friends is important, even if it may seem the politics of my country is so physically far away.