Vittorio Bufacchi

We live in an ageing society. The average age of death from COVID-19 is over 80. Care homes have taken the full force of this epidemiological tsunami. In Ireland 63 per cent of fatalities from COVID-19 related illnesses have occurred in nursing and care homes, not hospitals. It is now beyond doubt that in the way most countries prepared for the pandemic, nursing and care homes were not a priority, as reflected by the present mortality rates. Society’s relationship to people living in old age has never been under closer scrutiny; thus there has never been a better time to go back 2,000 years to the philosophical work of Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Old Age (44 BCE). This pandemic has fully exposed the lack of respect our efficiency-obsessed modern society has for people in old age.

in Everything must change
Richard Lapper

Chapter 11 looks at the breakdown of Brazil’s efforts to control deforestation and the growing international concern about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. This chapter considers some of the issues that have divided Bolsonaro’s supporters. The dramatic increase in deforestation in 2019–20 brought to the fore global concerns about the impact of deforestation on global warming. Much of this was down to Bolsonaro, whose administration weakened the institutions whose monitoring and policing work reduced deforestation in the period between 2004 and 2012. Bolsonaro provided encouragement for his wilder supporters – the small farmers, informal miners and loggers and property speculators who have colonised parts of the Amazon. The town of Novo Progresso in Pará celebrated Bolsonaro’s first six months in government by coordinating a series of fires in neighbouring tracts of rainforest. Yet many powerful commercial interests are alarmed by the impact of environmental damage on Brazil’s reputation abroad and the potential loss of markets and investment. A painstakingly negotiated and valuable trade deal with the European Union completed in 2019 may well come unstuck, for example.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 9 examines the role of the rapidly growing neo-Pentecostal churches. An estimated 30 per cent of Brazilians were evangelical Protestants in 2020, up from only about 6 per cent in 1980. The socially conservative churches, particularly the large and financially powerful neo-Pentecostal churches, are increasingly influential at all levels of Brazilian society and have established close links with Bolsonaro and his family.

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.

Richard Lapper

Chapter 2 describes the way in which the extraordinary growth of social media and the increasing competitive pressures faced by traditional newspapers, radio and TV helped Bolsonaro overcome the disadvantages that Brazil’s political establishment believed would keep him from office. Several factors helped propel his successful social media campaign. Bolsonaro’s second son, Carlos, designed an effective strategy. The popularity on the internet of Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian philosopher notable for his unconventional extreme right-wing views, was significant, while the knife attack that left Bolsonaro hospitalised for much of the electoral campaign also turned out to be to the candidate’s advantage. Above all, it was Bolsonaro’s anti-political style which proved attractive to more conservative Brazilians. Like Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, Bolsonaro benefited by openly opposing political correctness.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 4 charts the economic difficulties that coincided with Dilma Rousseff succeeding Lula as president in 2011. As the world economy began to slow down, Brazil failed to capitalise on the promise of the first decade of the 2000s. Deteriorating economic performance led to a big increase in unemployment and put consumer spending under strain. Having borrowed heavily to finance their spending, many families became over-indebted. In many ways, the successes of the previous decade generated a crisis of expectations.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

Chapter 7 looks at the way in which growing fears about violence helped fuel demands for the kind of hardline security policies championed by Bolsonaro. It starts in Fortaleza, in the north-eastern state of Ceara, where poor neighbourhoods have been devastated by fierce gang wars. Organised crime linked to the sale and trans-shipment of cocaine and other illegal narcotics became a growing problem during the 1980s and 1990s, with homicide rates in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo among the highest in the world. During the 2000s Brazil was able to improve security significantly in the south of the country, but from 2012 the number of violent deaths started to increase, especially in hitherto relatively peaceful parts of the country such as Fortaleza.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 10 explores the social and economic conflicts in the Amazon region. The small farmers and miners who have settled in states such as Para and Amazonas over the past half-century are Brazil’s equivalent of US ‘rednecks’: strongly independent, fiercely conservative and big supporters of right-wing politics. This section starts in Roraima, a state with a large indigenous population, where the settler population voted heavily in favour of Bolsonaro in 2018.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 5 explores the demonstrations of June 2013 and their aftermath. In the run-up to the Confederations Cup of 2013 – the football competition that serves as a dry run for the World Cup – frustrations combined with growing disquiet about levels of public spending, culminating in an explosion of discontent. The government misjudged the national mood and its popularity fell precipitously. With the Workers’ Party government on the ropes, the sensational Lava Jato corruption investigations delivered a knockout blow. Lava Jato represented a political earthquake in Brazil. It exposed the entire political and economic establishment to unprecedented scrutiny, although the Workers’ Party was worst hit, ironically. since the probe had been facilitated by reforms introduced by Rousseff herself.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

The introduction discusses the book’s main themes, introducing Bolsonaro as a populist leader and his movement’s similarities with other populist successes around the world. The political earthquake of the 2018 presidential election is described and the Brazilian municipality of Uberlândia is used as a case study to demonstrate the upheaval at a local scale. The author’s background is explained and the context of Latin American politics discussed. The powerful lobbies that backed Bolsonaro’s presidency and the combination of social forces that allowed his rise are introduced. Three factors are identified as underlying the support for his brand of populism: economic recession, corruption scandals that undermined the credibility of Brazil’s recent politics, and an increase in violent crime. The three lobbies that form the book’s title are presented as uniting those who were unhappy with the country’s move towards a socially liberal left. The introduction ends with a description of the structure of the book, chapter by chapter.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets