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
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

Chapter 3 looks at the impressive economic achievements of Brazil under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, particularly in the midst of the 2008–09 global financial crisis that Brazil weathered well. The decade to 2010 saw Lula surprise many with an openness to capital, and an export boom particularly to China meant economic stability as the reward. New approaches to social policy, a wave of job creation and the expansion of credit lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty, creating a new consumer class.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Abstract only
Richard Lapper

Chapter 1 looks at the rise of Bolsonaro and explores the relationship between his military and political careers. While Brazil’s democratic politicians kept their distance from the military dictatorship that had run Brazil between 1964 and 1985, Bolsonaro had served as an army captain in the 1970s and 1980s and extolled the virtues of military life. The army, particularly his relationships with lower ranks, had shaped Bolsonaro’s personality, and as a politician he lobbied in favour of military interests. But whereas politicians and the media tended to dismiss Bolsonaro as an eccentric irrelevance, his pro-military views were not so unpopular among ordinary Brazilians who were overall less opposed to the armed forces than their elected representatives.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 6 continues to chart the fall of the ruling Workers’ Party, with the Lava Jato corruption scandal meaning that many Brazilians now saw Rousseff at the centre of a corrupt administration. The president was impeached and Michel Temer installed as her replacement. Former president Lula was convicted and imprisoned in 2018 for his apparent role in the corruption. The political stage was now set for the entrance of the outsider, Jair Bolsonaro.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 13 looks at the divisions within the Bolsonaro administration during its first year and a half in office. Tensions between ideological extreme right-wing activists and the movement’s socially conservative base, and more pragmatic conservatives from the private sector and within the armed forces, were a constant feature of Brazilian politics throughout 2019, and became even more serious as a result of the pandemic. Bolsonaro underplayed the seriousness of the disease and opposed local leaders who sought to impose quarantines in order to diminish its impact. Conservative politicians such as Joao Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Wilson Witzel, the suspended governor of Rio de Janeiro, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the government’s first health minister, and Sergio Moro, the justice minister, all supported Bolsonaro in 2018 but will almost certainly oppose him in 2022. Bolsonaro’s idiosyncratic approach to the pandemic also brought him and his supporters into acute conflict with the Supreme Court. In May 2020 these battles threatened to lead to an institutional crisis.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets
Richard Lapper

Chapter 8 focuses on the growing importance of paramilitary militias, particularly in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Over the past twenty years these militias have controlled a growing number of poor neighbourhoods, and for many poorer Cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) they are a cause of greater concern than the drug traffickers they were set up to combat. Their links with the police and local politicians make reform a complex challenge. Rio also highlights a broader national problem: the rise in the number of killings by police officers and growing support among police officers for the repressive public security strategies advocated by Bolsonaro. In 2018 more than twice as many police officers were elected to the Brazilian Congress as in 2014, increasing the political weight of the so-called bullet lobby in Brazilian politics. At the grass roots, substantial numbers of military police provide firm support for Bolsonaro, constituting in the words of one writer the president’s “shock troops”.

in Beef, Bible and Bullets