/From Pandemic to Dictatorship: Why Brazil still has to deal with “some” Bolsonaro today? – Camila Antero de Santana

From Pandemic to Dictatorship: Why Brazil still has to deal with “some” Bolsonaro today? – Camila Antero de Santana

Camila Antero de Santana
Master Degree in Human Rights, Citizenship and Public Policies from Federal University of Paraíba – BRAZIL

The Covid-19 pandemic was able to expose, even more, the necropolitical[1] tendencies of Brazil’s current President of Republic. His government has neglected almost 30 thousand deaths due to the Coronavirus and has prescribed, with no medical endorsement, a certain drug, called hydrochloroquine. In the last sixty days, Brazilian people have watched two health ministers quit the job because they couldn’t fulfi ll the impossible mission of combining government’s actions, based on no scientifi cevidence, and actual policy to fight
Covid-19 nationally. Currently, national ministry of health is headed by a military chief. Brazilian national government, through its ministries and fanatic followers, have ignored the sanitation needs of the country and have continued to implement an agenda based on hate and threatening democratic institutions, featuring a national political scenery marked by
authoritarianism, hate speeches and the outrage against Republic itself.

In this moment, when the sanitation crisis meets the political and economic crisis, entire world asks: how a leader out of the democratic spectrum like Bolsonaro was capable of reaching the post of Brazil’s President of Republic? Any answer to this question has to face some of the history of consolidation of Brazilian democracy.

Between the years of 1964 and 1985, Brazil was under the rule of a military dictatorship that secretly killed and tortured men, women, children, students, artists, journalists, intellectuals, among other professionals; censored painfully arts, the press and other liberties of expression, consolidating a status quo based on “peace” that was just silence. It is estimated that, at least 8,300 indigenous people were killed by the regime and there are evidences of 434 others who were murdered due to state’s crimes in the period.

We all know that Bolsonaro has, on several occasions, made a point of expressing his nostalgia for the period of the military dictatorship, having even honored publicly, in the National Congress, the torturer and murderer Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra[2] in 2016.
Even though Bolsonaro introduces himself as a fi ghter “against ideologies” (which is an obtuse idea itself), historically, his fi gure represents the continuity of ideologies that gave support to Brazilian dictatorship, such as the use of means that violate Human Rights to control society; the persecution of divergent thoughts and beliefs; the totalitarianism, the conservatism, the xenophobic nationalism, among other hate based ideologies.

The point is that Brazil reaches 2020 as a country that has not settled its account with its dictatorship past, whereas other Latin American democracies have done more or less well,
such as Argentina and Chile (TORELLY, 2016, p. 135-142), or even post-Nazi Germany. These Latin American nations have condemned torturers, killers, genocidal dictators and other state crime committers, according to the Global Rule of Individual Responsibility
(TORELLY, 2013, p. 298). In post-Nazi Germany, in addition to the criminal actions against these political actors, there was also an exclusion of what the authoritarian regime represented, such as street names, squares and public places and the Nazi supporters were expelled from public office. While in Brazil, those who committed state crimes had the opportunity to remain on public posts even after the democratic opening of thecountry, like Brilhante Ustra did, the torturer who was honored by Brazil’s current president. Ustra was a military attaché to José Sarney’s government (1985-1990).

The 1979 Brazilian Amnesty Law enacted during the “lead years”, worked as a self-amnesty to the agents of authoritarianism. According to Torelly (2016, p. 144), “the Brazilian Amnesty Law was considered incompatible with the duties assumed by Brazilian state when it ratifi ed the American Convention of Human Rights” in 1992.

However, Brazilian Supreme Court, in the year of 2010, judged Brazilian Amnesty Law constitutional, disregarding the International Law of Human Rights (TORELLY, 2016, p.145). Nowadays, the same Supreme Court that endorsed the legal source of ‚un’punishment called Amnesty Law is facing institutional threats arising from a government taken by totalitarian ideologies and actors, and it’s judges are being personally threatened (them and their families) with physical violence and death by fanatic Bolsonaro followers.

History repeats as fraud in our country. We can’t fail to mention that, beyond representing the permanence of Brazilian totalitarianism, Bolsonaro had used fake news at a large scale to win elections back in 2018 and his election is less an expression of Brazilian democracy than the kidnapping of Brazilian people’s suffrages, that were taken away by unfair and illegal means, and it has been tolerated so far by the authorities that should do something about it.

Until Brazil faces the task of “washing the dirty clothes” of military dictatorship, holding those who committed torture accountable (according to current Brazilian law, the crime of torture is imprescriptible) and other human rights violations, among other actions that guarantee the Human Right to Memory and Truth, Brazilian people will be vulnerable to abuse of authority, police violence, hate speeches carried out by these heirs of authoritarianism, a group which the president is part of. Brazilian dictatorship delayed the country’s economic growth, increased the income concentration and generalized poverty, preventing the basic reforms that previous democratic tradition in Brazil was longing to implement. Today, Bolsonaro’s necropolitics follows the same steps and we watch social regressions in the range of 40 years, with increasing hunger, misery, unemployment, countryside violence and large deforestation.

Brazil is a Latin American country with continental dimensions and it congregates historical diasporas of diverse people. So, the nation must defend the uplifting of its democracy and the reduction of social inequalities. The reversal of progress in Brazil means the reversal of progress of the world and it cannot be allowed.

We hope that the shadow of authoritarianism will be, by constitutional means, banished from power in our country and we can start a new tomorrow with historical changes that will ensure the guarantee of Human Rights in Brazil and worldwide.

[1] Necropolitics is a concept elaborated by philospher Achille Mbembe (MBEMBE, 2016) to defi ne the power that states and constituted powers have to decide “who shall live and who shall die”
[2] Brilhante Ustra was a colonel from National Army, responsible for the organ of political repression known as Doi-Codi in the State of São Paulo. He was the fi rst torturer of brazilian dictatorship period to be recognized responsible (2008) by torture. His condemnation, however, was only in the civil jurisdiction, not being condemnated in the criminal jurisdiction until his death in 2015.

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