Bolsonaro, Bannon and the Brazilian election

The ominous prospect of the far right extremist Jair Bolsonaro becoming the next President of Brazil has sent shockwaves across the world.

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The rise of Bolsonaro is part of an international trend which is supported, directed and advised by a professional movement that is promoting the growth of the far right across the world – particularly in the US and Europe. One of the key leaders of this movement, and the most prominent, is Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to the US President Donald Trump.

In August Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, announced Steve Bannon would be an adviser of Bolsonaro’s Presidential campaign having made himself “available to help.” In outlining what that help would involve Eduardo said that “the support will come in the form of giving internet tips, analysis, interpreting data, that type of stuff.”

That Bolsonaro secured 46% of the vote on Sunday 7 October was a result few anticipated. On the eve of the election Brazil’s two leading opinion polling companies predicted that Bolsonaro would lead the first round with 36% of the vote – a prediction which was shocking in itself given that only a month earlier he was polling around 24%.

Brian Mier, co-editor of the website ‘Brasil Wire’ believes support for Bolsonaro surged in the last few weeks of the campaign as a result of a sophisticated social media campaign which, under the guidance of Steve Bannon, bombarded the electorate with fake news, lies and slander.

Speaking to The Real News Mier said:

“We are not just fighting Bolsonaro and his Party, we are fighting against Wall Street interests and we are fighting against Steve Bannon.”

Mier outlined the tactics that were used in the final days before the first round of polling:

“Bolsonaro hasn’t been campaigning on television, he hasn’t been participating in the debate. His entire strategy is based on social media and he has support in this from Steve Bannon. So what we see is a very similar situation to the Brexit and Trump’s victory where the polls were wrong because there is a last minute bombardment of fake information and slander over social media. In this case Watsapp… which is very popular in Brazil, over half the Brazilian population uses it.”

Mier explains that “thousands and thousands” of Watsapp groups were used to slander the left candidates. For example Bolsonaro supporters “targeted the Evangelical community which is 30% of the Brazilian population with a bombardment of lies about things like – if Haddad {the Workers Party candidate that will face Bolsonaro in the final round of voting on 28 October} is elected the government’s going to start forcing children to become homosexuals. They spread a fake photo-shopped photo Manuela D’Avila, the Vice President candidate, with a t-shirt that said “Jesus is a transvestite” on it. They just bombarded people with these messages.”

Marcelo Zero, a technical adviser to Brazil’s Workers Party, believes that “Bolsonaro’s campaign did not have the sophistication or organisation level to pull this off on its own and appears to be receiving technical and logistical support to run this dirty campaign.” He identifies Bolsonaro’s rise with an “intensive and extensive dirty campaign of fake news disseminated on the social media platforms against Haddad and other progressive candidates.” He argues that “this should be treated as a hybrid war tactic promoted by North American intelligence agencies in collusion with private companies like Cambridge Analytica” to strongly manipulate public opinion.

The stakes in the Brazilian election are high. The final round of voting will be taking place on Sunday 28 October where far right Bolsonaro will face Haddad of the Workers Party. The overwhelmingly majority of the Brazilian population will face harsh attacks on their economic, social and political rights should Bolsonaro win – he has promised radical neo-liberal reforms and a brutal campaign of internal repression under the guise of ‘law and order’. For the US administration a Bolsonaro victory would present a significant opportunity to advance Trump’s offensive against the left within Brazil and throughout the entire region of Latin America – particularly against the left governments in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico.

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