I’m writing to you on the eve of your going to the polls to determine the future of your wonderful country.
I think it’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of Brazil hangs in the balance. It’s also hardly hyperbole to assert that the election will have massive geopolitical significance, since if Brazil votes for Jair Bolsonaro, the extreme right will have come to power in the Western Hemisphere’s two biggest countries. Like many of you, I’m hoping for a miracle that will prevent Bolsonaro from coming to power.
When I visited Rio and São Paulo in 2015, I observed that the political rallies mounted by the opposition to then-President Dilma Rousseff contained a small but vocal fringe element calling for a return to military rule. Little did I suspect then that that fringe would expand into a massive electoral movement in support of a self-proclaimed advocate of strongman rule.
The Amazing Twins
It’s amazing to many of us here in the Philippines how similar Bolsonaro is to our president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte has spoken about how he wished he’d raped a dead female missionary. Bolsonaro told a fellow member of parliament that she didn’t deserve to be raped by him. Duterte has spoken in admiration of our dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos and decreed his burial at our heroes’ cemetery. Bolsonaro has depicted the military rule in Brazil over three decades ago as a golden age.
A friend asked me a few days ago, only partly in jest, “Is there a virus going around that produces horrible boils like Bolsonaro and Duterte?” I thought about her metaphor and thought there was something to it, but rather than being the result of a communicable disease, I think that authoritarian figures emerge from internal suppuration in the body politic.