MARCUS ROBINSON reports on Christian fascism’s arrival in Brazil
BRAZIL’S far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, above – known as “the Trump of the Tropics” – won a decisive victory in October’s presidential election, and when he takes office at the beginning of 2019 the country will, in the words of one commentator, will be at the mercy of “a dangerous Christian fascist who promises to remake Brazil into a Christian theocracy”.
Although a Catholic country, Brazil lurched to the right after evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, as they did in America, came out in support of Bolsonaro. They lapped up his vicious anti-gay, racist and misogynistic rhetoric and his promises to make Latin America’s largest nation and the world’s fourth-largest democracy a haven for religious zealots.
In a campaign speech delivered last year, Bolsonaro signalled his intention to steer Brazil towards a Christian theocracy declaring: “God above everything. There is no such thing as this secular state. The state is Christian and the minority will have to change, if they can. The minorities will have to adapt to the position of the majority.”
After his victory, Bolsonaro told his jubilant supporters that he was “going to change the destiny of Brazil”, declaring: “We cannot continue flirting with socialism, communism, populism and leftist extremism . . . We are going to change the destiny of Brazil.”
With this sort of talk, it’s little wonder that the ripples of fear that preceded the election have turned in panic – especially among LGBT communities that Bolsonaro especially despises.
For example, on gays homosexuals he said: “If your son begins to act like this, sort of gay, he deserves a smack and he’ll change his behaviour. I’m not going to combat or discriminate, but if I see two men kissing on the street, I’m going to hit them.
“I would be unable to love a gay son. I won’t be a hypocrite here: I would prefer that my son die in an accident rather than appear with a [gay] moustache. For me, he would be dead.”
“Obviously, we’re afraid,” Toni Reis, President of Brazil’s National LGBT+ Alliance, said. And Roberto Efrem, a law professor at Brazil’s Federal University of Paraiba, said there would be “a lot of consequences for LGBT people” – especially if his election is combined with an increase in social conservatives in Congress.
He noted that the LGBTQ community has obtained rights in Brazil – where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 – primarily through the judicial system, not through legislation. A greater number of conservative Christians in office, he added, “would enable a new legislative configuration to propose laws against existing rights.”
Additionally, Bolsonaro has proposed adding 10 judges to the current 11 on the Supreme Court, which would give him substantial influence over the institution.
Rivania Rodrigues, a Brazilian advocate who helped persuade her state’s police to track anti-LGBTQ homicides, warned ahead of the election that, if Bolsonaro and the evangelical caucus come to power, all the gains the LGBTQ community has secured over the past two decades will be threatened. Aside from gay marriage, Rodrigues said these gains include the creation of LGBTQ crisis centres, public health care for trans people and the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the military and in public sector jobs.
“I think Bolsonaro is worse than a [religious] fundamentalist,” Rodrigues said.
The website Vox reported that although various presidential candidates sought evangelical alliances in other recent elections, in 2018 Bolsonaro was the primary candidate to court evangelical leaders.
Bolsonaro claims to be a nominal Catholic, yet he attends a Baptist church and has long sought the political support of evangelical and Pentecostal leaders. Cementing these alliances, he was baptised in the Jordan River by the prominent Assembly of God Pastor Everaldo Dias in 2016 (who himself had run for president in 2014).
Vox observed: “So it was not surprising when influential Assemblies of God Pastor Silas Malafaia declared his support for Bolsonaro in March 2018. Malafaia predicted that 80 percent of the evangelical vote would go over to Bolsonaro. A frequent social media commentator, Malafaia began to use his online presence to attack Bolsonaro’s opponents.”