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Richard Lapper

Uberlândia, but the atmosphere inside was cheerful. As a group of women banged out gospel songs, we sat on white plastic chairs in a dimly lit corridor and Pires, a slim, fit and muscular man of 43, told me why a year previously he had cast his ballot for Jair Bolsonaro. “Each Christian, each person, started to pray. And I, Antônio, started to pray and I asked God who I should vote for”, said Pires, as if he were reading a biblical text. “And God showed me that I should vote for Bolsonaro. If you ask me why it was because of this revelation: Christians can’t act on the

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Brazil in the age of Bolsonaro
Author: Richard Lapper

Backed by Brazil’s wealthy agribusiness groups, a growing evangelical movement, and an emboldened military and police force, Jair Bolsonaro took office as Brazil’s president in 2019. Driven by the former army captain’s brand of controversial, aggressive rhetoric, the divisive presidential campaign saw fake news and misinformation shared with Bolsonaro’s tens of millions of social media followers. Bolsonaro promised simple solutions to Brazil’s rising violent crime, falling living standards and widespread corruption, but what has emerged is Latin America's most right-wing president since the military dictatorships of the 1970s. Famous for his racist, homophobic and sexist beliefs and his disregard for human rights, the so-called ‘Trump of the Tropics’ has established a reputation based on his polemical, sensationalist statements. Written by a journalist with decades of experience in the field, Beef, Bible and bullets is a compelling account of the origins of Brazil's unique brand of right-wing populism. Lapper offers the first major assessment of the Bolsonaro government and the growing tensions between extremist and moderate conservatives.

Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa

Introduction All over the globe, fascism, racism and xenophobic nationalism are resurfacing in what we once thought of as ‘respectable’ democracies. Following a particularly bleak weekend at the end of October 2018 (the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, reports of worsening famine in Yemen, Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the murder of eleven worshippers at a refugee-harbouring synagogue in Pittsburgh), my colleague Dr Sara Salem of the London School of Economics tweeted: ‘It’s difficult watching political scientists scrambling to

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction
Juliano Fiori

rewarded with record approval ratings. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, a captain of the Army Reserve, was recently elected president; he publicly pays homage to former military dictators and torturers, and his talk of gunning down opponents has provided licence for the spread of political violence. The election of Donald Trump in the US, in November 2016, was a watershed for electoral politics, giving global significance to rightward shifts elsewhere. With Trump in the White House, the US itself has become the greatest threat to the liberal order it

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Richard Lapper

stage, and the word rises up the screen. Arguably, this is tame, cringeworthy stuff, but in Brazil there was clearly an audience who appreciated it. The ‘Legends of Bolsonabo’ sketch was part of a weekly comedy show called Panic on the TV ( Pânico na TV ) broadcast by Band TV, one of Brazil’s smaller terrestrial stations. Lúcio, who had mimicked Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer to acclaim, started his Bolsonabo impression early in 2017. Its aim was clear enough: to mock Bolsonaro’s militarism, poke fun at his sexism and deride his sons. But according to

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

in Brazil’s GDP. The actual result was a decline of 4.1 per cent. “It was”, said one writer, “a horrible result, but still less catastrophic than any other major economy in Latin America.” 4 By the end of 2020 it was becoming clear that this policy was also yielding political dividends. Bolsonaro’s opinion poll ratings, which had sunk during the May crisis to their lowest levels since he’d assumed the presidency, improved steadily during the second half of the year. The polls showed that although the president had lost the backing of some middle-class supporters

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

On the surface, everything about the two-hour cabinet meeting that took place on 22 April 2020 seemed ordered and calm. Two dozen ministers and senior officials – most of them men wearing dark suits and ties – sat around a conference table. The blurred outlines of Brasília’s skyline were visible through the Planalto Palace’s blinds as General Walter Braga Netto, the president’s chief of staff, explained how the government should coordinate its response to the coronavirus pandemic. At first the tone was bland, low-key. Braga Netto, sitting next to Bolsonaro

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

Paulista’s 15,000 inhabitants have vivid memories of the firefight. “My dad said, ‘get down, get down’”, remembers Nizilene de Oliveira, the deputy director of the local school, who was 10 years old. “There was a lot of shooting.” 1 For one person living in Eldorado at the time, the battle left an even deeper impression. Jair Bolsonaro, then a 15-year-old schoolboy, lived a couple of hundred yards from the main square. After the shootout, dozens of soldiers took over the town, searched houses and interviewed locals. It caused some tensions, but Bolsonaro and his teenage

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

successful but very controversial president in 2003 – was still in jail when I visited Oliveira in the middle of 2019. And support for Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) was at a low ebb in Uberlândia, a city of 700,000 people that grew quickly during Brazil’s short-lived economic boom of the early 2000s. Not only did 60 per cent of voters cast their ballots in 2018 for Jair Bolsonaro, an iconoclastic extreme right-wing outsider, but the PT lost control of Minas Gerais – the state of which the city is part. Oliveira’s own effort to win a state government seat for the PT came to

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

thousands of tweets. Soon the internet was awash with alarm, as one celebrity after another signalled their concern for the environment. Madonna, Lewis Hamilton, Jaden Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cristiano Ronaldo all posted their own pictures of burning forests, some from many years before, others not even from Brazil, a few not even from Latin America. Leonardo DiCaprio called on his nearly 34 million Instagram followers to become more environmentally conscious in a post warning that “the lungs of the Earth are in flames”. Amid the media frenzy, Bolsonaro flailed

in Beef, Bible and Bullets