The US Far-Right Cheerleaders of the Attack on Brazil’s Democracy
The links between Brazil’s far-right leaders and the US Stop The Steal activists suggest a globally-connected movement determined to attack democracy
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US far-right figures who helped to fuel Trump’s ‘big lie’ are connected to the fascist attacks on Brazilian democracy, according to analysis.
On Sunday 8 January, in scenes that mirrored the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington D.C just over two years ago, far-right supporters of Jair Bolsonara attacked Brazil’s Congress in protest at the 2022 electoral success of the left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The supporters of former President Bolsonaro – who is currently holed up in Florida and who spent the run-up to 2022’s vote threatening that the left would ‘steal’ the election – stormed the building, destroying priceless historical artifacts and attacking the heart of Brazilian democracy.
In the run-up to the events, Bolsonaro supporters were camping outside army bases and calling for a military coup, while planning logistics for the attack on the Telegram social media channel.
Lula has promised to punish the “neo-fascists” who are responsible, strongly condemning Bolsonaro for “encouraging” the violence – an allegation he rejects. But those responsible go beyond Brazil’s borders – with US far-right figures fuelling the fascist anger on display.
The Trump of the Tropics
During his time in office, Bolsonaro counted Trump as one of his key allies – not least for their shared interests in anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ policies, environmental destruction, and a preference for disaster capitalism over climate protections. Both leaders promised to tackle corruption: in its far-right sense this has less to do with financial inequality and more to do with attacks on nationalist, patriarchal power.
So when it came to an insurgent left threatening his power base, it was perhaps of little surprise that Bolsonaro moved to the Trumpian playbook – whipping up fear that the election would be “stolen”, often via unsubstantiated claims about voting systems.
The losing leader did not have to look far for advice and ideas on how to manipulate his far-right base to lose faith in the democratic process. His son, Eduardo, has formed close ties with the Trump regime. Tom Shannon, a former senior state department official who specialises in Latin America was quoted in the Financial Times saying that the third son “looked very closely at 6 January to understand what went wrong and why Trump was unsuccessful”.
Eduardo – who calls his father a “freedom fighter” –was in Washington on 6 January 2021, but declined to comment on the events. He has met Trump since Brazil’s election on 30 October last year, spending time at Mar-a-Lago and speaking to other political allies by phone.
One of those phone calls was with Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon – the far-right thinker who who last week appeared in court to face criminal contempt charges for defying a subpoena from Congress’ 6 January committee before declaring combatively outside court that he was “taking on the Biden regime” in fighting the charges.
The pair first met in August 2018 in New York, and Bannon introduced Eduardo at an event in South Dakota in summer 2022. Bannon named him the South American representative of The Movement – his far-right project.
Eduardo tweeted that he and Bannon shared the same views, especially on “cultural Marxism” – a far-right term and known antisemitic dog whistle.
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The Washington Post quoted Bannon as saying the pair had discussed potential challenges to the Brazilian election results. Crucially in light of this weekend’s violence, one of the issues under discussion was the power of the pro-Bolsonaro protests.
Bannon described those storming Brazil’s congress as “Brazilian Freedom Fighters” on the social network Gettr. His War Room podcast had previously expressed support for Bolsonaro supporters camping outside army bases.
During a War Room discussion, Bannon was joined by Project Veritas’ Matthew Tyrmand and former Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie to sow doubts about the results of Brazil’s election, echoing similar tactics employed by Trump’s regime and supporters in 2020. “There was fraud there,” Tyrmand said. Bannon claimed a Bolsonaro defeat was “mathematically impossible”.
Both claims have been proven to be untrue. The US State Department considers Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has never registered a single instance of fraud since its introduction in 1996, “a model for the (Western) hemisphere countries and the world”. Electoral observers also confirmed the vote was fair.
A second former Trump aide advising the Bolsanaro family, according to the Washington Post, is former campaign spokesperson Jason Miller, who is now CEO of social media company Gettr. Eduardo lunched with him during his autumn visit, where the two discussed free speech. Gettr is where Bannon shared his support for the far-right attacks on Brazil’s Congress.
According to reports by Agencia Publica, quoted in openDemocracy, Bolsanaro’s links with the US ‘stop the steal’ movement go beyond Trump and Bannon. The day before the attempted insurrection on 6 January 2021, Eduardo met MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a determined Trump supporter, who in a livestream during the violence boasted that the “world was watching” and how he had “met Brazil … the Brazilian President’s son”.
Similarly, Stop the Steal organiser Ali Alexander tweeted his support to the violent protesters, urging them to do “whatever is necessary”.
As well as personnel, Bolsonaro supporters also appeared to have learned tactics from those involved in the 6 January attack in Washington D.C – perhaps unsurprising given Shannon’s testimony that Eduardo wanted to learn what went wrong. This included the use of Telegram to organise buses to drive people to Brasilia, in scenes reminiscent of Turning Point USA organising busloads of protesters to reach the US Capitol two years earlier.
Further, Bolsonaro supporters picked up the Trumpian demand to see the ‘source code’ of voting machines, after their leader whipped up fear that the election would be rigged. Research John-Scott Railton tweeted how some of the banners alleging voting irregularities were in English – prompting him to question “who exactly has been advising Brazil’s ex-President?”
And finally, just as in the US before, the Brazilian far-right sought to depict the left as violent and undemocratic, just as Trump had demonised so-called ‘antifa’ as an organised terrorist group, rather than a broad nickname for anti-fascist movement.
Lula has condemned Bolsonaro and his followers, saying he will bring the perpetrators to justice. But whatever happens next, the shared tactics and characters in this attack on Brazilian democracy tells us something concerning about the global far-right: they are connected, they are advising one another, and they are learning tactics from one another.