It’s become somewhat of a trope in Brazilian newsrooms to draw parallels between the storylines of Netflix’s House of Cards and the never-ending drama of Brazilian politics. However, after the Supreme Court made public a video of a meeting between Jair Bolsonaro and his ministers, it would seem that Scarface is the more fitting comparison.
Released as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged political interference by Jair Bolsonaro, the meeting shows the President ranting and raving like the Mad Kings of old.
“It’s a disgrace!” he screeches. “An absolutely disgrace that I don’t have the information I need.”JAIR BOLSONARO, APRIL 2020
It soon becomes clear that the information he craves is really access — the ability to call up a friendly face in every organ to enquire about cases of interest.
Spitting expletives, Bolsonaro shouts that that he will continue to interfere into any body he sees fit.
“This isn’t a threat, nor an extrapolation on my part” he barks “It’s reality.”
Implicit in this bulldozing of checks and balances is the constitutionally independent Federal Police which is currently investigating two of his eldest sons. Son 01, as Bolsonaro likes to refer them, is being investigated re links to the Brazilian mafia. Son 02, for his role in the fake news machine that keeps the Bozo base outraged.
Next to speak are several senior ministers — each keen to demonstrate their loyalty to the sinking government ship.
The Minister of Education suggests jailing Supreme Court Judges.
The Environment Minister promises to let Big Agro run unchecked through the Amazon while the press is busy with the pandemic.
The Minister of Human, Family and Women’s Rights implies that the reason so many indigenous people have been infected is because “communists” got their first and started spreading the disease to discredit Jair Bolsonaro.
While each indulges in their own language of betrayal, mutiny or mission creep, the message is clear. This is a government that feels persecuted by the very institutions that elected them.
While it’s not a new narrative in our populist era, it does acquire a unique flavour in Brazil.
Throughout his presidency, Bolsonaro has fattened the idea of a communist takeover into a sacrificial lamb. The more instable his government gets, the juicier it becomes.
Forget that the Communist Party have one of the lowest shares of power in Congress or that Bolsonaro has scared off more foreign investment than the last three Presidents combined. Communists — which has come to encompass anyone with centrist or left-leaning tendencies —are what has robbed Brazil of its destiny of becoming a modern thriving nation.
By this same logic, any evidence against Bolsonaro must also be fabricated, planted by the rapacious commies that stalk the land.
JAIR BOLSONARO, MAY 2020
“I didn’t ask for special treatment from Moro, just for him to prevent them planting evidence in my son’s house”
Like most conspiracy theories, it obfuscates more than it reveals, robbing the population of the chance to have structured conversations around the very real problems of racism, inequality or corruption.
Instead we’re forced to live in the psychological territory Bolsonaro sets out for us. In this nostalgic Wild West, there is no nuance, just the light-skinned ‘goodies’ and the black ‘bandidos’ — both of which are brandishing arms. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is deemed “necessary” is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.
Enter the military, often portrayed as the only viable alternative to the ups and downs of Brazilian politics. An almost knee-jerk reaction, Brazil has seen 4 military coups in the last century. Worse still, their cruel reigns are often revised as periods of relative “stability” in the shared consciousness — despite their well-documented reputation for torture.
With an unscrupulous General for Vice President, it’s exactly this muscle memory of repression that Bolsonaro looks set to ignite. As the cards fold under this ramshackle government and recession looms, it’s hard to see how Brazil will avoid this most unfortunate of fates.
Feature Image Cartoon by the great Paulo Caruso for O Globo