Released from hospital 3 weeks after being stabbed, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, the “Brazilian Trump”, returns home as hundreds of thousands organize protests against him
By Marques Travae
Well, if you’re a presidential hopeful, how do you respond to this? A little over three weeks ago, we brought you the news that the leading candidate in the Brazil’s October elections, Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), who the media has promoted as the “Brazilian Trump”, was stabbed during a campaign event in the city of Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais. The media blitz was immediate, with all of the major networks covering the incident as well as up to the minute updates on the candidate’s condition.
The chatter in social networks ran the gamut of commentaries. Some believed the controversial candidate staged the event to attract sympathy for his cause. Some wondered why none of the photos of the candidate, from the actual stabbing to his being rushed away to the hospital, showed any blood. Other media outlets focused on Brazil’s lack of tolerance. I found the whole thing reeked of sensationalism. Of course, I’m not one to revel in a violent attack on any human being, even one who harbors many views I disagree with, but what really disgusted me was the way the media covered Bolsonaro’s stay in the hospital. Why were cameras in the patient’s room in the first place?
Regardless of the candidate’s condition, was it really necessary to show him with all of the hospital paraphernalia on his body and face? I mean, would you want images of yourself in this condition being broadcast into millions of homes? It seemed that Bolsonaro’s camp wanted to make sure that people understood that this was not a type of “fake news” and that he really was stabbed. But in the same manner, it was clear that they also wanted garner support for the candidate. After watching my fair share of the coverage for several days, I was done when I saw images from the sensationalist Band TV news program Brasil Urgente showing images of a Bolsonaro aide rubbing the forehead of the sleeping or perhaps medicated PSL candidate.
Well, it’s been three weeks, and I would say it’s now safe to say that if the purpose of the media coverage was to garner support for the candidate, it most definitely failed. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the day that Bolsonaro was released from the hospital saw massive protests against the presidential hopeful, not only across Brazil, but also in the United States and Europe. In recent weeks, one could feel a growth in anti-Bolsonaro sentiments as groups and still more groups were forming in opposition to the candidate. We various groups “contra Bolsonaro”, meaning “against Bolsonaro”, such as “Mulheres (women) against Bolsonaro”, “LGBT Contra Bolsonaro”, “negros contra Bolsonaro”, “Evangélicos Contra Bolsonaro”, “Santistas contra Bolsonaro” (Santistas are fans of the popular futebol team Santos), and many more. Several well-known musical artists have voiced anti-Bolsonaro sentiments and even the general of the Brazilian army, Eduardo Dias da Costa, has come out against the candidate he also compared to American President Donald Trump. This last voice of opposition may have come as a surprise as Bolsonaro has often made reference to his military past.
In our August 28th report, we detailed how, even leading in the polls, anti-Bolsonaro sentiments within the general population would lead to a loss in a head to head showdown with several other presidential hopefuls. At that time, the verdict was still out as to whether imprisoned former president Lula da Silva (PT) would be eligible to run. Polls that featured Lula in the race had him leading Bolsonaro by several percentage points. But in recent weeks, the courts held to the decision of barring the two-term president from running.
At that time, it didn’t look good for supporters of the PT (Workers’ Party) party that ruled Brazil from 2003-2016, as Lula’s running mate, former São Paulo mayor, Fernando Haddad, was only polling at about 6%, that is without Lula’s support. As a matter of fact, reports showed that of the top four candidates that could end up in a run off against Bolsonaro, Haddad would be the only candidate that Bolsonaro could defeat.
But my how things have changed.
As Bolsonaro is released from the hospital, after a three week stay, the latest polls show that Fernando Haddad is now polling at 25%, trailing Bolsonaro (28%) by only three percentage points. And even more important due to Bolsonaro’s huge negative percentages (those who would never vote for him), the latest numbers have Haddad edging out Bolsonaro 45% to 39% in an eventual run off; a stunning turn of events indeed.
So what’s this all about? How is it that the leading candidate could be beaten by a man who was only polling in the single digits just a few months back? Well, besides Lula throwing his full support behind Haddad, what we saw yesterday in the streets of Brazil just about tells the whole story.
Across Brazil, in numerous cities, we saw the power of social networks work its magic once again as women’s organizing against Bolsonaro showed its full force. With the hashtag “Ele não”, meaning “not him”, women, who represent 52% of Brazil’s population, led demonstrations that took tens of thousands of Brazilians to streets to show their rejection of a Bolsonaro presidency. Photos of crowds in the largest protests taking place in the country’s two largest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, looked similar to other protests in recent years, those in support of the impeachment of former PT president, Dilma Rousseff, and the March murder of Rio city councilwoman Marielle Franco.
The funny thing is that Bolsonaro’s candidacy has seemed to even unite the various other candidates, at least on this issue. The protest in the Pinheiros region of Brazil’s economic engine, São Paulo, saw vice presidential candidates of rival parties such as the PCdoB, PDT and PSOL and the Rede party’s presidential candidate, Marina da Silva, participate in the demonstrations.
This unity can be noted in the words of Angela Martins, a 65-year old university professor. Speaking on the protests, Martins said: “There is the PT, there is Rede, the people of (candidates) Ciro (Gomes), (Guilherme) Boulos, it is important that they are all here. The guy united us. Thank you, Bolsonaro!”
According to some estimates, the demonstrations in São Paulo brought together 150,000 people, 200,000 in Rio with tens of thousands more in major cities such as the nation’s capital Brasília, Salvador, Goiânia, Recife, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Florianópolis, Natal, Fortaleza, João Pessoa, Vitória, Aracaju, Palmas, Belo Horizonte, Campo Grande, Belém, Cuiabá and Manaus. There were protests in numerous other cities and they took place in all 26 states.
How did it happen, you might ask.
Social media. With women leading the charge, the #EleNão campaign on Facebook brought together 3.8 million women, all expressing their opposition to the candidate who has made a number of sexist comments over the years, and offended the black and LGBT community along the way. “Someone that looks at the majority of us and doesn’t see a complete human being should not be a candidate”, said one student, a participant in the protests. “He’s a sexist”, said another. Ana Mary da Conceição, 38, also went to the protest. “I won’t vote for him because I a woman and black,” says Ana, who will vote for Haddad to force a run-off election.
Now just be fair about this, the same day brought together a number of pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations as well. But in comparison, according to images, the numbers of supporters were much smaller. The candidate was also greeted with numerous supporters on a flight upon release from the hospital. Interestingly, anti-Bolsonaro rallies, although obviously of a much smaller scale, were reported around the world in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Germany, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Argentina and Chile.
I’m just curious to see how the “Brazilian Trump” will react to these latest developments with the opening round of elections exactly one week away.
Let’s wait and see…