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Have Brazilians lost hope?

This sign, which says “March Tomorrow,” is part of an exhibit at the Museu de Arte do Rio called “Art, Democracy and Utopia.” (Julia De Cunto/YJI)

“Brazilian, occupation: hope.” This is a famous phrase once said by Antonio Maria, an important Brazilian poet and composer who was famous in the ‘50s. The sentence couldn’t be more appropriate to the citizens of this tropical third world country, where hope is considered a full-time job.
This is because we live in a scenario of deep social inequalities, economic and structural crises, corruption scandals, and widespread violence. Brazilians have lived together with all of these for centuries, largely because of a colonialist, slave and patriarchal past.
In the course of our history, we’ve stumbled through a monarchy, a Republic lead by colonels, populist governments, what seemed like a very long military dictatorship, as well as periods of liberals and progressive presidents leading our country.
We went through dramatic scenarios, never losing hope of creating a better future, having the best carnival and winning the World Cup.
But in the October 28 election, some Brazilians even thought of quitting our ancient profession of carrying on with hope.
Last Sunday, the extreme right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro was elected president with more than 55 million votes. This means that 55 million people have ignored his racist, misogynist and homophobic discourses and voted for him anyway. They legitimized his project of power based on diminishing social rights and exacerbated violence.
Bolsonaro’s candidacy prompted several episodes of violence in recent months. Only in the first 10 days of the second round of the election, between September 30 and October 10, more than 50 attacks were reported by supporters of Bolsonaro, according to a survey by Agência Pública, an independent investigative press organization.
Some people relate the brutality of these acts to a neo-fascist movement since aggressions are echoes of discourses that incite hatred of blacks, women, LGBT and indigenous people.
In just the first 24 hours after his election, several cases of violence were reported on social networks, including threats and physical attacks.
The new president-elect’s approach to authoritarian regimes such as fascism and Nazism are observed in his speeches that favor the reduction of the individual freedoms of women and minorities, such as LGBT communities as well as black, indigenous and traditional people.
In addition, he legitimizes Brazilian dictatorial regimes, not even hiding his admiration for Col. Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the only military man condemned by the Brazilian courts for the practices of torture he committed during the dictatorship.
In several international newspapers, Bolsonaro is compared to U.S. President Donald Trump. An editorial in The Guardian even called him “Trump of the Tropics,” warning about the setbacks of social rights that his election represents.
Like Trump, he claimed himself as an “outsider” in politics, but unlike the U.S. President, he had been a congressman for 27 years, and all his sons followed him into political careers.
But more than that, Bolsonaro was elected based on spreading fake news, including one that affirms the return of a “Communist threat” in Brazil and that the former Workers’ Party government distributed “gay kits” for children in public schools. According to Bolsonaro, this “kit” is composed by a set of materials that supposedly stimulated the children to be homosexuals.
These affirmations were denied several times by reliable fact-checking agencies. The materials were instructional books intended for public school teachers who sought to combat homophobia and encourage respect and equality among students.
Yale Professor Jason Stanley, who wrote the book “How Fascism Works: Politics of Us and Them,” stated in a recent interview for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that Bolsonaro uses more tactics associated with fascism than Trump.
“Certainly [uses fascist tactics]. Even more than Trump, as he is much more in favor of violence. And violence is not democratic, it is a symptom of fascism. Who boasts to use violence against adversaries…? He’s more overtly undemocratic than Trump,” Stanley told the newspaper.
As a young female journalist, I can say that Bolsonaro represents a dangerous threat to our rights and our work.
Anti-feminism is one of the biggest flags of the far right in Brazil. At the beginning of the election campaign, with the exponential growth of voting intentions, about 4 million women joined in a group on Facebook in opposition to it, launching the hashtag #EleNão (#NotHim) and leading marches against fascism in 114 Brazilian cities.
The rejection is the result of several statements made by the candidate. In a 2014 speech in the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies, he told Congresswoman Maria do Rosário from the Worker’s Party that he would not rape her “because she does not deserve it,” according to Time and other publications.
And his declaration on women’s pay gap was that he would not employ women with the same salary as men because they become pregnant, among other things.
As a journalist, I realize the credibility of my profession is threatened by fake news, but I also fear that our physical safety is in danger. An increasing number of journalists who report information contrary to the candidate have been harassed by their supporters. Earlier this week, the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI) reported 141 cases of threats and violence against journalists covering the elections, mostly committed by Bolsonaro supporters.
Some people may find the use of the word “fascism” to be an overstatement – or that the use of it to describe the Bolsonaro phenomenon empties the word of its meaning –But Mike Godwin, creator of the Godwin Law on the use of Hitler analogies, disagrees.
On his Twitter account, Godwin stood against Bolsonaro by posting a photo of himself with a sign saying #EleNão.
We have every reason to be pessimistic, but if I can leave a hopeful message to my fellow Brazilians, as well as those who feel stifled by an authoritarian and undemocratic policy in their countries, I would remind them that history is cyclical.
Change comes and goes; our society has always worked this way – because nature itself works like this. We are part of something much bigger, something that existed before we got here and will continue to exist after we leave.
There will come the bad times, and people who represent the worst kind of ideas, but at the same time will come the good times and people able to expand them.
As journalists, our job is to strengthen and give voice to these wonderful and revolutionary people.
Julia De Cunto is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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