In Spite of You

Bolsonaro and the New Brazilian Resistance


“Jair Bolsonaro has slavishly copied Trump’s edicts and pronouncements: whether proposing to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, denying climate change, or attacking environmental protection and indigenous land rights … Trump is making the world a more dangerous place, and Brazil should be ashamed to support him. ”
—Workers Party presidential candidate Fernando Haddad

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About the Book

In October 2018 Brazilians elected Jair Bolsonaro as their new president. A former army officer who served under the military dictatorship, Bolsonaro has spent his political career campaigning against democracy and human rights. His notoriety comes from his repeated racist, sexist and homophobic statements and his defense of torture, extra-judicial executions and impunity for Brazil´s security forces. Bolsonaro is sometimes described as a “Tropical Trump.” But this wording greatly underestimates the threat that he poses to Brazil´s still young and fragile democratic institutions.

In Spite of You brings together voices of the new Brazilian resistance. It includes chapters by Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil, political prisoner and torture survivor; Fernando Haddad, former minister for education and mayor of São Paulo, who was defeated by Bolsonaro in the 2018 election; and Eugenio Aragão, former minister for justice in President Dilma´s last government. It also gives a voice to feminists, environmentalists, land rights activists and human rights defenders, explaining the background to Bolsonaro´s election and setting out a manifesto for reviving democracy in Brazil.

Contributors: Eugenio Aragão, Rubens Casara, Sérgio Costa, Vanessa Maria de Castro, Fabio de Sá e Silva, Michelle Morais de Sá e Silva, Paulo Esteves, Conor Foley, Gláucia Foley, Fernando Haddad, Monica Herz, Fiona Macaulay, Renata Motta, Dilma Rousseff and Márcia Tiburi.

180 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-210-8 • E-book 978-1-68219-213-9

About the Author

Conor Foley is a Visiting Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and has worked on legal reform, human rights and protection issues in over thirty conflict zones. His previous books include, Protecting Brazilians Against Torture, Another System Is Possible and The Thin Blue Line.


Read an Excerpt

Jair Bolsonaro is a former military officer who has been a full-time politician in Brazil for almost thirty years. He never distinguished himself as a lawmaker, and the same vague accusations of graft swirl around him as the rest of Brazil’s political class. His notoriety comes from making a series of bizarrely offensive statements during his career. He told a fellow legislator that she was too ugly to raped by him; said that he would rather his son die than accept him as gay; has repeatedly taunted Afro-Brazilians, indigenous communities, and those from the poorer states of the northeast; and stated that the dictatorship’s only mistake was that it did not kill enough of its political opponents. When casting his vote for the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff in 2016, Bolsonaro dedicated it to the memory of the head of intelligence of the military dictatorship, a man responsible for torturing over one hundred political dissidents, including Dilma herself. On the eve of his election Bolsonaro released a statement in which he promised to imprison his political opponents and echoed a slogan from the dictatorship era: “Brazil, love it or leave it.”

Bolsonaro’s inauguration speech of 1 January 2019 vowed to “liberate” Brazil from “socialism,” “gender ideology,” “political correctness,” and “ideology that defends bandits.” Unfurling the Brazilian flag, he declared that it would “never be red unless our blood is needed to keep it yellow and green.” Hours after taking office he announced a new regulation transferring the protection and regulation of indigenous land rights to the Ministry of Agriculture, which is now dominated by the country’s powerful “agribusiness lobby.” Other newly appointed ministers also began to unveil their own platforms and programs, which will be discussed further in subsequent chapters of this book. Perhaps the most extraordinary of these came from Damares Alves, an Evangelical lay preacher and head of the newly amalgamated Ministry for Women, Families and Human Rights. A video emerged on social media of her leading supporters in a raucous, singsong, nursery-rhyme chant of “boys must dress in blue and girls must dress in pink,” which she subsequently explained was a metaphor for her government’s commitment to combat “gender ideology” in Brazilian schools.

It is difficult to exaggerate the threats that Bolsonaro poses to a just social order both in Brazil and beyond. The world’s fourth-largest country could now slide from democracy to dictatorship. Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the expropriation of land from Brazil’s indigenous people will certainly accelerate. If Brazil pulls out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the threat of humanity-destroying global warming comes ever nearer. Bolsonaro’s promises of impunity to the police who carry out extrajudicial executions, support for torture and the death penalty, and pledge to repeal the country’s gun laws will make one of the most violent countries in the world even more deadly. Where Brazil under previous governments had played a leading part in developing an independent foreign policy for the Global South, Bolsonaro is already slavishly echoing even the most idiotic pronouncements of US president Donald Trump. The incendiary and fascist rhetoric that he used during the campaign and has promoted throughout his political career also cuts deep into the body politic of one of the most racially, ethnically, culturally, and socially diverse societies in the world.

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