Brazil’s Bolsonaro is replaying Donald Trump’s insurrection playbook

Former Trump staffers are advising Jair Bolsonaro on how to whip up false fears about election fraud while his supporters threaten violence
Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro speaks during a news conference. August 19, 2021. Photo: Palácio do Planalto/Flickr

First published at Daily Kos

On Tuesday, Metrópoles reported that Trump advisor Jason Miller was detained while boarding a jet at Brasília International Airport. Miller is being held in connection with an ongoing operation looking into “the organization of anti-democratic acts in Brazil.” That detention came following Miller’s appearance at a CPAC meeting in Brazil. Miller now claims that he refused to cooperate with authorities and was allowed to leave without telling them anything.

It also comes as ongoing violence is shaking Brazil, and as “Bolsonaristas” threaten not just to attack the Congress but also the Supreme Court. As The Rio Times reports, justices have requested additional security after Bolsonaro’s followers threatened to invade the building. In addition to the capital, right-wing protests are going on across Brazil. Bolsonaro has been attending these protests, including the ones in Brasilia where, as The Guardian reports, right-wing activists supporting President Jair Bolsonaro are attempting to force their wait into Brazil’s Congress.

In an all-too-eerie echo of the Jan. 6 attack in the United States, Bolsonaro supporters have now pushed past several police lines and engaged in attacks on police attempting to block their progress to the congress. Bolsonaro supporters are even creating signs, in English, explicitly linking Bolsonaro and Trump and calling out to Trump supporters. 

And, in another extremely unsettling echo of events in the U.S., Bolsonaro supporters aren’t just set to march on Congress and the Supreme Court to get their way. They’re asking Bolsonaro to call on the army to crush opponents and suspend the upcoming election.

From the moment he was elected, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has been the darling of Republicans. Racist, sexist, and violently homophobic, Bolsonaro was hailed as “Brazil’s Trump” even before he started leading that country down a path to a COVID-19 disaster in which he seemed set to match his mentor in the U.S. While shovels excavated mass graves, hospitals wilted under a shortage of basic supplies, and public officials have shuffled around to find someone willing to cover up the staggering number of deaths, Bolsonaro made a show of ignoring every precept of public health. In his spare time, Bolsonaro launched a genocide of Indigenous tribes, set out to corrupt every aspect of the nation’s government and judiciary, and tried to blackmail the world into saving the Amazon rainforest from an environmental holocaust that he encouraged.

And, when Brazil’s Trump managed to catch COVID-19 from America’s Trump, he not only got the same better-than-world-class treatment Trump received, he also used his recovery to double down on blocking every attempt by the legislature to reduce the threat. Bolsonaro has never shied away from being likened to Trump. He’s used the same propaganda Trump employed in the U.S. against opponents in Brazil. He has found his version of Trump’s mouthpiece Scott Atlas, willing to downplay the disease even as bodies continue to fall. As a result, Brazil exceeds the U.S. in deaths per capita, even though the reported numbers are believed to be artificially low.

But, as Reuters reports, the sheer number of graves spread around the country seems to be poking holes in the southern Trump’s ongoing “it’s just a cold” claims, and the president is now running behind probable candidates in the 2022 election. However, Bolsonaro seems set on not repeating what he view as Trump’s biggest mistake. Bolsonaro isn’t waiting for the election. He’s making his move in advance.

As reporter Jennifer Cohn points out, there has been an ongoing exchange of Trump advisors who, like Miller, came to Brazil to help Bolsonaro keep disruption and anger at a fever pitch. And, that flow has not been one way. Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, actually flew to Washington D.C. on Jan. 4 and was still in the city for events on Jan. 6. As O Globo reported at the time:

Less than two days before Congress made Joe Biden’s victory in the November election official, and 16 days before his inauguration, some of the top foreign policy figures in the Jair Bolsonaro administration issued public expressions of esteem for Donald Trump’s government. 

Accompanied by Nestor Forster, Brazilian ambassador in Washington, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) was at the White House this Monday afternoon, at the invitation of Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.

This meeting was described as “a vacation” for Bolsonaro’s son, who holds a position within his father’s administration. He also acts as Brazil’s representative within The Movement, the international fascist organization operated by Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon.

At the Tuesday protest in Brasilia, Bolsonaro called for the ouster of supreme court justices. who he said “may suffer.” As NPR reports, this follows the imprisonment of Bolsonaro supporters on charges of organizing and financing violence and spreading disinformation.