Jair Bolsonaro’s Plan to Burn Brazil to the Ground

Bolsonaro is all but announcing his intentions to subvert Brazilian democracy in real time, and has resorted to openly debasing his own country in the eyes of the world in the hopes that there will be real questions about who won in October. On July 18, he convened foreign diplomats stationed in Brazil and expounded on absurd and already debunked conspiracy theories about vulnerabilities in Brazil’s voting system. The president claims, without evidence, that he would have won the 2018 election more easily if not for a Russian hack. But the federal agency tasked with overseeing elections has shown that while the hackers broke into the system in 2018 to “change information about candidates and parties for one municipal election that year,” as André Spigariol and Jack Nicas wrote in The New York Times,they did not change votes or interfere with the electronic voting machines, which are not connected to the internet.” In Brazil, like the United States, the idea that the voting system is routinely manipulated by corrupt officials and unscrupulous partisans has become a delusion of the febrile right-wing hive mind. Voter fraud is simply not a real problem in either country, which doesn’t mean politicians intent on holding onto power at all costs won’t make it an issue.

Bolsonaro is frantically kicking up dust to throw a race that does not currently favor him into disarray. Maybe then he can reach into the fray and salvage something that works to his political advantage. This strategy has produced actual violence and could well lead to more. Earlier this month, Marcelo Arruda, a member of the Workers’ Party who had run for local office in southern Brazil, was celebrating his fiftieth birthday with family and friends. The theme of the party was Lula and the Workers’ Party, whose colors and iconography were splashed across banners, balloons, and cake. Arruda’s celebration reportedly was brought to a tragic end by an armed Bolsonaro supporter. The alleged shooter, a penal officer, drove by the party with his wife and infant child in the car, shouting curses at the partygoers, and said he was going to return with a gun and kill everyone. Arruda, a local law enforcement officer, retrieved his own gun in case the man came back. The man did, shooting Arruda in the leg and back. Arruda managed to fire at his assailant five times, likely saving the lives of other partygoers, then died.