- Artigo publicado no New York Times.
O Sr. Lago leciona na Universidade de Columbia e escreve frequentemente sobre a política e a sociedade do Brasil.
RIO DE JANEIRO - É época de eleições no Brasil, e o burburinho habitual de atividade enche o ar. A imprensa acompanha
avidamente as campanhas, divulgando perfis de candidatos e especulando sobre futuras coligações. Apoiadores do candidato à frente,
o ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, debatem acaloradamente quem serão os próximos ministros. E todos os envolvidos estão
cruzando o país para comícios, em um esforço enérgico para obter o voto.
No entanto, Jair Bolsonaro, o presidente de extrema direita do país, se destaca. Embora seus adversários tenham passado meses
ansiosos pela eleição, ele tentou desacreditá-la preventivamente. Ele questionou o papel da Suprema Corte e pôs em dúvida, de
maneira loquaz e frequente, o processo eleitoral. Ele fala como se a eleição fosse um estorvo, uma irritação. Ele diz que não aceitará
nenhum resultado que não seja uma vitória.
Para alguns, isso parece a base para um golpe . Nessa visão, Bolsonaro pretende recusar qualquer resultado eleitoral que não o
agrade e, com a ajuda dos militares, instalar-se como presidente permanentemente. A leitura está meio certa: Bolsonaro não pretende
deixar o cargo, independentemente do resultado das eleições. Mas não é um golpe, com sua necessidade de consenso de elite e
abstenção de mobilização de massa, ele está atrás. É uma revolução.
Desde o início de seu mandato, Bolsonaro se comportou mais como um líder revolucionário do que como um presidente. Em seu
primeiro mês no cargo, ele disse que seu papel não era construir nada, mas “ desfazer ” tudo. Em vez de administrar um governo, ele
tentou desestabilizá-lo. Ele se recusou a ocupar cargos em agências reguladoras cruciais, colocou apoiadores sem conhecimento
técnico em altos cargos, subfinanciou programas sociais, puniu funcionários públicos por fazerem seu trabalho e negligenciou uma
resposta coordenada à pandemia, que matou mais de 680.000 brasileiros.
O artigo, em inglês.
It’s not destruction for its own sake, however. Dismantling the state is how Mr. Bolsonaro galvanizes his supporters. By identifying
clear enemies and antagonizing them, he excites his followers and, crucially, enlists their support. Everything he does — decrees, bills,
pronouncements, demonstrations, alliances — is framed for the digital infrastructure of YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp. The more
radical his actions and words, the more engagement he generates.
Support for Mr. Bolsonaro may start online, but it leads to the streets. For the past year, Mr. Bolsonaro has conducted a bimonthly
“motociata,” a march with thousands of motorcycles that looks very much like a brute show of strength. His presidency, in fact,
aspires to be a permanent rally. On Sept. 7 last year, Brazil’s Independence Day, he gathered almost half a million people to protest
against the Supreme Court. On the same day this year, he has promised a big military parade to show the army’s support for his
It’s not just the military. Many of Mr. Bolsonaro’s most fervent supporters are notable for their power over common citizens. He is
popular among police officers — a 2021 study estimated that 51 percent of Brazilian street-level police officers were active members of
pro-Bolsonaro groups online — and he is also a favored candidate among gun owners. Of those who approve of his government, 18
percent say they already have a gun at home and almost half would like to have one.
They may get their wish. One of the major achievements of the Bolsonaro administration has been to weaken gun control, flooding the
country with firearms. In 2018, there were around 115,000 people with special licenses to carry a gun in the country. Now there are
over 670,000 people holding these licenses — more than in the police and the armed forces. A substantial number of them adore Mr.
Bolsonaro and are organized into a vast network of nearly 2,000 gun clubs.
Militant and committed, these are the foot soldiers of any future revolution. There’s a lot we don’t know about how that might come
about. But it’s clear that if a contingent of supporters, armed and determined to keep Mr. Bolsonaro in power, burst into Brasília, the
capital, it would create chaos. In many major cities, it’s not impossible to imagine an insurrection led by police forces — while truck
drivers, overwhelmingly pro-Bolsonaro, could block the roads as they did in 2018, creating havoc. Evangelical pastors, whose
congregants by large margins support the president, could bless those efforts as part of the fight for good against evil. Out of such
anarchy, Mr. Bolsonaro could forge dictatorial order.
Who will stop him? Probably not the army. Mr. Bolsonaro, after all, has many supporters in the military and over 6,000 military
personnel working in his government, filling civilian roles. For its part, the army seems to be relatively relaxed about a possible
takeover and has — to put it mildly — no special attachment to democracy. There is no sign, as far as can be seen, that the armed
forces could be protagonists of a coup. But neither is there a sign that they would resist an attempt at revolution.
Democratic forces are unlikely to fare much better. For all Mr. da Silva’s popularity, left-wingers seem to have lost their capacity to
rally the masses. The 13 years of a left-led government that ended in 2016 did much to disperse and weaken social movements, and
they have struggled in the years since to recover their dynamism. Demonstrations against Mr. Bolsonaro, for example, have been
poorly attended. And political violence is on the rise: A member of Mr. da Silva’s party, for example, was recently killed by a
Bolsonaro supporter. People would certainly think twice before going to the streets to defend a Lula victory.
The best bulwark against a revolution, curiously, might be the United States. The Biden administration could make clear the profound
costs, in the form of sanctions and international isolation, that would follow any seizure of power. That in turn could frighten big
Brazilian businesses — which, as influential backers, can exert considerable pressure on Mr. Bolsonaro — into defending democracy.
If the difficulties of executing a revolution are too great and the rewards seem slim, it’s conceivable that Mr. Bolsonaro will back down — or simply stage a performance, as former President Donald Trump did, to maintain control over his followers and prepare the
ground for the next election.
The last time Brazil experienced similar political chaos was in 1964, when a military coup removed a democratic government that was
trying to carry out progressive reforms. It took just a few hours for the United States, then led by Lyndon Johnson, to recognize the
new government of Brazil.
A lot hinges on the hope that the United States now values democracy a bit more.
Miguel Lago is the executive director of the Institute for Health Policy Studies and teaches at Columbia University.
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