In popularity, Jair Bolsonaro can rely on his sympathizers, increasingly radical Brazilians, convinced that the virus is a communist plot meant to destroy the Brazilian economy and introduce a leftist dictatorship in the country. Others believe that Covid-19 is “a plague of God” from which only the president can save them. Meeting with the hard core of pro-Bolsonaro activists.
In Brasilia, on Sunday, May 17, the thunderstorm that thunders in the distance disturbs Jair Bolsonaro’s sympathizers much less than the communist threat hanging over the country. Thousands of activists came to cheer on the Brazilian president. In a simple blue polo shirt, and now wearing a mask for all occasions – a news -, the head of state rises off the ramp to Planalto, the presidential palace, and comes to greet them.
A wave of joy grabs the audience. “He is our president, the only one who can deliver us from this comunavirus!” Shouts a woman. Without a mask of 68, Dona Regina broadcast the event live on her Facebook profile. She is wearing the presidential campaign t-shirt, with the slogan “My party is Brazil” snapped by a red mark, symbol of the knife attack that Jair Bolsonaro staged during the campaign, on September 6, 2018.
Most without masks, these protesters are convinced that the new coronavirus will do more harm to the economy than their country’s health. And yet, the same day, Brazil passed the sad symbolic bar of the 15,000 deaths due to Covid-19.
“Comunavirus” as well “Dicta regulator”
“Komuna virus” is a buzzword in these gatherings. Although the majority of these sympathizers do not deny the existence of coronavirus and the dangers of the pandemic, for them, an even stronger evil is eating in the country. An evil that prevents the “good Brazilians” from going out into the street, from being able to work and re-open the stores that have been closed by the “dicta governors” in the states. And this evil is, according to them, communists. Listen, everyone who doesn’t support Jair Bolsonaro.
>> See: “Populism and pandemics: the Brazilian shock”
When the Brazilian president lost popularity – 39% support now – his supporters became more radical. There are Brazilians from all over the country, by car, bus and even for some, on foot! They are campaigning for the ministries in front of Congress to support their president.
This is the case with Dona Regina. Originally from Rio, ultra-conservative and abortion, this retired official says she experienced a revelation thanks to Jair Bolsonaro. “It represents everything we expected in Brazil. We do not deny the virus, we know it exists, but Brazil will starve if we stop people from working. I no longer work but I demonstrate to my daughter!” she said, having seen her diabetic and heart mother travel 1,160 km by bus and attend these meetings, which are now in front of Planalto every week. Dona Reginadort has been in a house on loan from a sympathizer in Brasilia for two weeks.
The other, mostly former military paratroopers, from the same regiment as Captain Jair Bolsonaro, sleep in tents in a makeshift camp at the foot of the Ministry of Health. Donations are poured in every day: passersby and officials from surrounding ministries come to get them food, water and participate in organized barbecues.
The press in the viewfinder
In front of the presidential palace, in the homogeneous crowd dressed in yellow and green, the colors of the national flag do not all share the same goal: a handful of army veterans defend a military intervention to help Jair Bolsonaro better control when others, fathers and mothers, ask for resignation from the Supreme Court judges, accused of obstructing the actions taken by their president.
Supporters of vertical containment, that is, only for the elderly or at risk, since the beginning of the pandemic, Jair Bolsonaro accuses the judiciary, legislative power and state governors of having signed the death of the Brazilian economy by taking measures to contain the population and force non- necessary companies to close.
Motivated arguments are often lost in the cry of performance: “You, the press to the left!”, “Jair Bolsonaro is an envoy of God, he will protect him!” … The photographers who were present were saved by a few nudges of an improvised mass.
Many accuse the press and the private TV channel Globo of orchestrating a cancellation campaign against Jair Bolsonaro. The slogan “Globo Lixo” (“Globo junk”) has become their rallying cry. A mantra is constantly repeated on the right social network, and in particular the Instagram account of famous pastor Silas Malafaia. He is an avid defender of the president and every day publishes a new video dissecting the “fake news”, according to him, by Globo against Jair Bolsonaro. Last comments were exchanged for these groups on the right: some deaths have been deliberately classified Covid-19 to inflate the figures.
>> In Bolsonaros Brazil, “empty chests” theory wants to minimize Covid-19 pandemic
“Only God will deliver us from evil”
In this war of ideas, religion has an important power in Brazil. The majority of evangelicals and their powerful lobby in Congress defend the president. In Rio, in the shadow of Silas Malafaia, many pastors continue to preach in their churches and defy the ban on the meeting. This is the case with Cristina, pastor of the Church of the Gods power at the heights of Penha, a favela in northern Rio.
Cristina is convinced that Covid-19 is a punishment from God and compares the new coronavirus with the seven plagues in Egypt. A curse, an enchantment of the Chinese enemy to also kill to death the export of soybeans in the country, flagship of the Brazilian economy. “Only God will deliver us from evil, it is enough to pray hard, look at me, I did not have the virus, while those who had it, I am sure, did not address God enough to save them.” One word which spreads rapidly in these very religious neighborhoods, where we sometimes also compare Jair Bolsonaro with a messiah, his middle name by the way.
The pastor, who is also an unemployed entrepreneur, is not without contradiction: she is silent when she is informed that it is Congress, and not Jair Bolsonaro, who voted to free the emergency rent that she perceives. Hundreds of euros a month for the Brazilian most affected by the economic crisis caused by the corona virus. In addition, its church, very powerful in Brazil, has agricultural land in the interior of the country. There, the head of the ward is convinced that he is growing a seed there that will cure Covid-19. He wants to sell it between 500 and 1,000 reais (between 80 and 160 euros). “I come to Brasilia to give some to the president, enthusiastic Cristina. I am convinced that he can use it to save the Brazilians!”