Brazil’s Perfect Storm

Lula da Silva has confirmed that he wants to be a presidential candidate in Brazil’s 2022 election. This was expected. After being freed from a process of lawfare intended to curtail his political career, Lula has reemerged on the national scene with full force. The Datafolha Institute has published a poll according to which Lula would win the first electoral round with 41% of the votes and the second round with 55% of the ballots. On the other hand, if neo-fascist President Jair Bolsonaro seeks re-election, he would only obtain 32% of the votes in the second round.

Abysmal statistics about Bolsonaro fail to convey the depth of the crisis being faced by his regime. The ruling administration’s toxic mix of pandemic mismanagement and savage neoliberalism has generated cracks in Bolsonaro’s “bull, bullet and bible bloc” – a coalition based on connections with the agribusiness sector, military and police forces, and the evangelical religious Right. In addition to the internal fragmentation of the top-level governing caste, there has been a groundswell of grassroots resistance to the right-wing agenda of neoliberal fascism.


In spite of the growing pressures, the ruling dispensation has remained steadfast in its commitment to callousness. The Bolsonaro-headed political class continues its anti-science virus denialism, now perceiving the pandemic not as a public health issue but as a biological or psychological weapon created by China to gain competitive advantages in the global market and expand communist domination. This view has resulted in a strategy of herd immunity, ensuring that the free-market economy would keep working without any hassles and the internal enemies linked to international communism would also be defeated.

By downplaying the disease’s severity, preventive measures have been interpreted as arbitrary authoritarian acts. The deaths among risk groups have been accepted as casualties of war that would have the corollary effect of natural selection in the population, thus reducing the social security deficit and streamlining the country’s economic mechanisms.

Bolsonarist doctors have backed the thesis that Covid-19 is a much less serious disease than the World Health Organization (WHO) is portraying in ostensible collusion with China. They have also defended a cheap and accessible medicine kit with no proven efficacy for the treatment of Covid-19 infection. According to them, this medicine kit has not been officially recommended against the disease because it would go against the interests of big pharmaceutical companies.

Rising Hysteria

With no arrows left in his quiver, Bolsonaro is increasingly resorting to hysteria to somehow consolidate his hegemony. On May 6, 2021, the state police entered the favela of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro and opened fire, killing at least 25 people who appeared to surrender before the guns fired. A day later, Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said:

This appears to have been the deadliest such operation in more than a decade in Rio de Janeiro, and furthers a long-standing trend of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by police in Brazil’s poor, marginalized and predominantly Afro-Brazilian neighborhoods. We…urge a broad and inclusive discussion in Brazil about the current model of policing in favelas – which are trapped in a vicious cycle of lethal violence, with a dramatically adverse impact on their already struggling and marginalized populations.

Growing violence is a natural extension of the tendencies inherent in a specific component of Bolsonaro’s power alliance, namely, the bullet bloc. Firstly, a pro-armament stance performs a cultural function, attempting to symbolically suture the economic disempowerment suffered by Brazilian men under neoliberalism through a hyper-masculine code of violence. Secondly, members of the bullet coalition promote deregulation in terms of gun sales and fund Bolsonaro’s campaign with money coming from the arms industry.

Strengthening of the combative capacity of the police and the armed forces has proven to be lethal. State squadrons involved in the federal government’s ongoing operations against drug traffickers have become dangerously violent. Countless civilians, mostly those who are Black and poor, have been killed in such operations, including many children.

As Brazil’s human travail increases due to the criminal negligence of the ruling elite, Bolsonaro will go hammer and tong against in his efforts to shore up support through hysterical means. This will include a deepening of an obnoxious crusade against the rising left-wing camp and a possible increase in repression. However, the desire among the Brazilian masses for a better future can’t be defeated easily. It will keep increasing in tandem with worsening existential conditions.

Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India. Read other articles by Yanis.