Brazil: Jair Bolsonaro’s Southern Strategy

The authoritarian leaders taking power around the world share a vocabulary of intolerance, insult, and menace. Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected President of Brazil on promises to end crime, right the economy, and “make Brazil great,” has spent his career gleefully offending women, black people, environmentalists, and gays. “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son,” he has said. “I would prefer that my son die in an accident than show up with some guy with a mustache.” As a national legislator, he declared one political rival, Maria do Rosário, “not worth raping.” Immigrants are “scum.” The United Nations is “a bunch of communists.” He supports the torture of drug dealers, the use of firing squads, and the empowerment of a hyper-aggressive police force. “A policeman who doesn’t kill,” he has said, “isn’t a policeman.”

[…] Bolsonaro has deftly exploited conservative resentments. Under Rousseff, the government offended traditionalists by legalizing same-sex marriage and designing materials for schools to combat homophobia. During the Presidential race, Bolsonaro repeatedly told crowds that the P.T. had tried to introduce a “gay kit” to their children. A rash of messages linked to his campaign arrived on voters’ phones, accusing P.T. candidates of endorsing pedophilia.

For gay Brazilians, these actions intensified a sense of siege. There has been an alarming increase in homophobic attacks. Brazil already had the world’s highest levels of lethal violence against L.G.B.T.Q. people, with four hundred and forty-five murders reported in 2017. During the Presidential election, some fifty attacks took place that were directly linked to Bolsonaro’s supporters; among them were at least two incidents in which trans women were killed by men who invoked his name.

Some L.G.B.T.Q. people are taking measures to protect themselves. In the Rio neighborhood of Lapa, Halisson Paes, a forty-one-year-old lawyer, showed me the gym where he and his friends have been practicing Krav Maga, the Israeli system of self-defense. “It’s not just aggression against the L.G.B.T. community,” Paes said. “There’s also more suicide. It’s a toxic atmosphere.”

For Bolsonaro’s supporters, rejecting gay rights is merely a return to common sense. In January, his human-rights ministry removed L.G.B.T.Q. protections from its guidelines. At a press conference, the newly appointed minister, an evangelical pastor, declared, “Girls will be princesses and boys will be princes. Girls wear pink, and boys wear blue.” Read more via the New Yorker