The Unbearable Fascism & Machismo Of Trump And Bolsonaro’s Bromance

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras






The twin presidents of the United States and Brazil are linked most closely by the insecure, tough-guy grievance politics that fuel them both.

“Brazil’s relationship with the United States, because of our friendship, is probably better than it’s ever been,” President Donald Trump (right) said during a meeting with Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON ― Late Tuesday night, far-right Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro and his staff departed the Blair House, the estate that hosts foreign dignitaries and heads of state on their visits to the United States, en route to Andrews Air Force Base and a long flight south.

In the rearview mirror, Bolsonaro had left a new best friend.


Earlier in the day, Bolsonaro met with President Donald Trump at the White House, for talks that covered everything from their approach to the crisis in Venezuela to U.S. desires to launch satellites in Brazil. But the meetings, more than anything else, turned into a love fest between the leader known as “Brazil’s Trump” and the real thing.


Finally together in person, the men in charge of two of the world’s four largest democracies spent most of Tuesday afternoon showering each other with the kind of doting praise that has become a regular feature of Trump’s time with foreign leaders who share his authoritarian impulses.


“He has done a very outstanding job ― ran one of the incredible campaigns,” Trump said with Bolsonaro by his side. “I think Brazil’s relationship with the United States, because of our friendship, is probably better than it’s ever been by far.”


“I have always admired the United States of America,” Bolsonaro said an hour later, at a joint news conference in the Rose Garden, his eyes wandering to his left, where Trump was standing. “And this sense of admiration has increased since you took office.”

Bolsonaro and Trump have many things in common ― they are anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ, they share a history of making deeply racist and sexist remarks, and neither can quite hide their disdain for the basic tenets of democracy as they rail against “fake news,” praise authoritarian leaders and, in Bolsonaro’s case, openly pine for the return of military rule to Brazil.


What connects it all, though, and what has fostered the sort of bromance that took root last year and fully bloomed this week in Washington, is the sense of masculine, tough-guy aggrievement that fuels them both ― the defiant but insecure machismo that flows through everything they do.


It was on full display throughout Bolsonaro’s time in Washington.

“May I say that Brazil and the United States stand side-by-side in their efforts to ensure liberties and traditional family lifestyles and God, our creator,” Bolsonaro said during the White House press conference.


“And against gender ideology or politically correct attitudes,” he added, jamming his deep-rooted opposition to efforts to promote equality for women and LGBTQ people into one of the biggest moments of his visit.


Trump, who once proclaimed himself “a real friend” to the LGBTQ community, didn’t bat an eye. Instead, he praised Bolsonaro for lumping a distaste for “fake news” into the group of things both countries detest.


That both Trump and Bolsonaro are thrice married apparently does not contradict their version of what constitutes “traditional family lifestyles” ― instead it seems to reinforce it. In an impromptu press gathering after the White House visit had concluded, Bolsonaro told reporters that he and Trump had joked about the relatively young ages of their current wives (first lady Melania Trump is nearly 25 years younger than her husband; Jair Bolsonaro is 30 years older than his wife Michelle).


“I called him a young man and I spoke to a translator ― careful what you’re going to say now ― why I’m calling him a young man: We’re the age of the woman we love,” Bolsonaro said.


It wasn’t his first effort at humor of the week.

"I have always admired the United States of America, and this sense of admiration has increased since you took office," Bolso

I have always admired the United States of America, and this sense of admiration has increased since you took office,” Bolsonaro told Trump during a White House visit on Tuesday.

During a Monday speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bolsonaro told the American business community that his initial meeting with his economic minister, the University of Chicago-trained economist Paulo Guedes, resulted in “love at first sight.”

“Economically, I mean,” Bolsonaro cracked, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“I’m not a homophobe, by the way,” Bolsonaro, who has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay one, added. He later insisted the same during an interview on Fox News, adding there that he is not racist or xenophobic, either.


Guedes got in on the act, too: The reason Brazil is suffering from high rates of violence and a sluggish economy, he said at the Chamber event, is that “nobody had balls” enough to fix the problems.

“So, we got a guy who has balls,” Guedes said. (When it comes to violence, Bolsonaro’s main balls-informed plan has been to give one of the world’s deadliest police forces even more power to kill on sight.)

That tough-guy image is central to both Bolsonaro and Trump’s appeal ― to each other and their most hardcore supporters.

Trump’s campaign and subsequent presidency have been defined by his appeals to aggrieved white men who feel like their America has been taken from them by immigrants, black people, LGBTQ communities, women and the political leaders who seek to advance the rights of all of them.


Bolsonaro, meanwhile, ran for office promising to restore Brazil “for the Brazilians” ― by which he primarily meant those Brazilians who felt their own grip on their Brazil had been loosened by years of leftist governments that pushed affirmative action quotas and other policies aimed at improving life for some of Brazil’s most marginalized peoples. (“Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan could well be ‘It’s not your fault,’” Harvard professor Bruno Carvalho wrote last July. “As if to say, ’If they weren’t ruining everything, this country would be great.’”)

That’s not just conjecture: Researchers found in 2016 that the more people believed in “masculine honor beliefs” ― supporting male aggression, physicality and bravery ― “the more positive they felt about Trump.” Others have suggested that Trump support rose in areas that showed higher levels of “fragile masculinity.”


The appeal of figures like Trump and Bolsonaro as mythical, comically masculine figures is evident in the sort of artwork and memes that each has inspired, and that circulated again around their meeting. In them, they are painted as muscle-bound, G.I. Joe-like superheroes, ready to save the world from the perceived scourge of LGBTQ people, feminism, immigrants and the “political correctness” that has eroded the world in which men can just be men.

Comic relief aside, that machismo has directly informed the way Trump and Bolsonaro have governed.

Both have stacked their governments with military officials that project the sort of strong, honorable image neither Bolsonaro nor Trump is capable of pulling off themselves. Bolsonaro’s 23-member cabinet includes just two women, and one of them ― Minister of Human Rights, Family and Women Damares Alves ― has embraced Bolsonaro’s fight against “gender ideology” with a rigid traditionalism: “Attention, attention! It’s a new era in Brazil: Boys wear blue and girls wear pink!” Alves tweeted in January.


Trump has routinely targeted women and minority groups not just with rhetoric but with policy decisions too, and Bolsonaro has followed a similar path. His first actions as president were aimed at reducing rights and protections for LGBTQ people, black Brazilians and indigenous communities, all of which are already subject to high rates of violence across Brazil.


Government-by-machismo also tends to lead to more hardline policies, and more aggressive support for them, when it comes to public security and foreign policy. In Brazil, Bolsonaro has supported shoot-to-kill policing in order to address violence, while Trump’s approaches to immigration and, right now, his efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ― potentially with military force ― give off the same tough-man vibe both leaders try so hard to project. (During his visit, Bolsonaro said he supported Trump’s border wall with Mexico and criticized immigrants; he also refused to take military support for the U.S. in Venezuela off the table.)


Trump and Bolsonaro’s meeting came at an important time for each, with both of the leaders in need of each other’s validation. Their governments are both flailing thanks to allegations of corruption, and their approval ratings and confidence in them to lead their respective countries have plummeted ― in Trump’s case to near its lowest point and in Bolsonaro’s from the heights he enjoyed the day he took office just two months ago.

But their bromance was comforting, a chance to look in the mirror and see a version of themselves in a position of power elsewhere. People in both countries have feared that the sort of validation Trump and Bolsonaro derive from each other could only lead to even more backlash against their most marginalized communities.

“When we see two far-right, neo-fascist people like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro meeting, we know it can only signal something bad for the oppressed people of their respective nations,” Sean Blackmon, a D.C.-based activist, said after a Sunday afternoon protest outside the White House, where nearly 100 people demonstrated against Bolsonaro’s visit.

Trump’s aggressive macho politics have helped amplify fringe “men’s rights movements” and emboldened white nationalists in the U.S. and elsewhere, with deadly consequences. Brazil is already one of the deadliest countries in the world for LGBTQ people, black people, and women ― in 2019 so far, four women a day have died due to femicide ― and there are fears across those communities that Bolsonaro’s brand of politics will only make it worse.


“These are two people who are both racist, sexist, bigoted against the LGBTQ community, and who support police terror,” Blackmon said. “We may even see an intensification of oppression. This kind of tacit seal of approval from the United States has a lot of meaning across the world. When we see Donald Trump basically giving his seal of approval to Bolsonaro, it’s a signal to him that nothing is going to stop him.”

Trump and Bolsonaro’s machismo has made them friends ― at least in the context of their presidencies. But the consequences of their approach to politics and the friendship it has fostered will likely linger well after both leave office.


“Both President Trump and President Bolsonaro, their attitudes, their views, their styles, have authorized in the public this resurfacing of some views, attitudes and behaviors that we thought had been put to sleep,” said Paulo Barrozo, a Brazilian political expert and Boston College professor. “What worries me most: This dark energy of prejudice, discrimination and irrationality that both administrations are authorizing will last way past the end of their administrations.”

By: Trevis Waldron

Source: The Huffington Post





Brazil President’s U.S. Visit Kicks Off With Steve Bannon-Sponsored Paranoia Fest

At the Trump hotel event, anti-globalist advocates pushed for even greater influence over Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrived in Washington on Sunday afternoon for his first official visit to the United States
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro arrived in Washington on Sunday afternoon for his first official visit to the United States.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, Washington ― A little after 8 p.m. Saturday night, Olavo de Carvalho emerged from the bowels of President Donald Trump’s D.C. hotel to speak to reporters. The author and polemicist was wearing the sort of tweed suit fancied by those who regard themselves as philosophers.

Carvalho, who is the sort of guy who quotes Plato to reporters, was at the Trump International as the guest of honor at an event organized by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, another supposed master of the classics, which was meant to act as a curtain-raiser for far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s first official visit to the United States.


Bannon and Carvalho have a lot in common. Carvalho, whom Americas Quarterly dubbed the “guru” behind Bolsonaro’s rise, calls himself an “anti-globalist.” He writes and rants against “cultural Marxism” and climate change, immigrants and Islam; he has said that the United Nations controls all governments around the world and that Pepsi sweetens its sodas with aborted fetuses. His influence on Brazil’s president has earned him the moniker “Bolsonaro’s Bannon,” thanks to the new leader’s repeated remarks that Carvalho inspired his own (admittedly less academic) racism, sexism, homophobia and general hysteria.


Bolsonaro wasn’t even in Washington on Saturday night― he wouldn’t arrive until Sunday afternoon. But Carvalho and Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo were, which meant the Bolsonaro visit was effectively underway.


That the visit kicked off at an anti-globalist soiree that attracted such luminaries as right-wing former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka baffled officials in both the U.S. and Brazilian governments, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. The White House, the paper wrote, can’t understand Bolsonaro’s obsession with figures like Bannon and Carvalho.


In fact, the event merely served as further evidence that inside Bolsonaro’s tenuous and already splintered governing coalition ― composed of military men, neoliberal economists, evangelicals and Carvalho acolytes ― the anti-globalist wing is attempting to exert more power and influence over the president than anyone else.

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon (left) talks with Olavo de Carvalho, the anti-globalist known as Brazilian President Jair Bols

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon (left) talks with Olavo de Carvalho, the anti-globalist known as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s “guru,” at the Trump International Hotel on March 16.


But Carvalho, who has lived in the United States since 2005, doesn’t think the president is heeding people like him quite enough. Bolsonaro, he told reporters, needs to “stop listening to bad advice and do what he needs to do.”


In a brief chat with journalists after the hotel gathering, which included a screening of an 80-minute film about him, the man who once proclaimed that “the person [Bolsonaro] listens to most is me” tried to distance himself from the Brazilian leader, saying that he has spoken to Bolsonaro only four times.


He claimed that everyone in the press and the Brazilian government who doesn’t hew to his anti-globalist philosophy is driven by a “coup mentality” and a desire to bring down Bolsonaro. And he warned that on its current course, the two-month-old Bolsonaro presidency may not last six more.


“I’m unable to predict [how long he will last], but if everything stays the way it is, it’s already bad,” Carvalho told reporters. “It doesn’t have to change anything to get worse, just to continue the way it is. Six months more and it’s over.”


Bolsonaro’s first 60 days in office have indeed been tumultuous. He has faced corruption allegations against his party and his son Flavio, a senator, and has been accused of unseemly (if not definitive) links to one of the former police officers arrested last week on charges of murdering Marielle Franco, the black, queer Rio de Janeiro councilwoman who was assassinated last March. Bolsonaro’s distracted and impulsive governing style has so far accomplished little beyond a few (yet still dangerous) morsels of policy that he’s tossed to his base. He seems to prefer bizarre Twitter rants against journalists and golden showers at Carnival to the actual work of governing.


But to Carvalho, none of this is Bolsonaro’s fault. Instead, the blame lies with the overzealous efforts of the media and its reporters (all of whom are “drug addicts,” he claimed Saturday) and a cadre of “traitors” surrounding Bolsonaro ― in particular, retired Gen. Antonio Hamilton Mourão, the vice president who has publicly contradicted Bolsonaro on multiple occasions, and the more than 100 military officers whom Bolsonaro has put in his government. The soldiers, Carvalho said, are waiting to restore the sort of military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, and the media is only helping.


“This is a coup d’etat, haven’t you guys noticed it?” he said. “This is a coup d’etat.”

“This is only speculation, [but] these people wanted to restore, these generals, the government of 1964, but with a democratic aspect,” Carvalho said. “So they are governing the country using Bolsonaro like a condom. … Now they think they are in power. … This is a coup. If it’s not a coup, it’s a coup mentality.”


The Brazilian media has been tough on Bolsonaro, a fact that has only furthered the president’s hatred of journalists. Mourão, meanwhile, has spent the past two months crafting an image of himself ― and by extension the military ― as a stabilizing force in an unstable country, striking a more measured and pro-democratic tone than the scattershot and more explicitly authoritarian president.


But contrary to the paranoia of Carvalho and his anti-globalist allies, all of this is a result of Bolsonaro’s own actions. The media, he and Carvalho complain, has painted him as a racist homophobe and wannabe dictator. That’s because he has so far governed as a racist, homophobic, wannabe dictator. (His first actions as president included targeting LGBTQ peopleindigenous communities and black Brazilians.)


The military men in his government, meanwhile, have gained a reputation as forces of stability only because people like Mourão ― who, in a 2018 interview with HuffPost Brazil, actually said he wouldn’t rule out a return to military control ― have adopted the sort of softened quasi-democratic rhetoric that has eluded the Twitterer-in-chief. If Brazil falls back into the hands of the generals ― an increasing worry among veteran political observers and leftists with ugly memories of how the former junta targeted them ― it will be the result of Bolsonaro’s inability to manage a government that he stocked with military officers. A coup of the sort that overthrew President João Goulart in 1964 won’t be necessary if Bolsonaro brings himself down.


President Donald Trump and Bolsonaro, who is known as "Brazil's Trump," will meet Tuesday at the White House.

President Donald Trump and Bolsonaro, who is known as “Brazil’s Trump,” will meet Tuesday at the White House.


But Carvalho’s rant on Saturday evening wasn’t so much a picture of reality as it was the sort of attempt to work the refs ― i.e., the president who listens closely to him ― that Bannon once regularly employed in the Trump presidency. For anti-globalists like Carvalho, anyone who isn’t one of them is a traitor or a golpista, to borrow the Portuguese term for coup-monger ― a communist in disguise trying to protect some mythical New World Order.

On Saturday night in Washington, Bolsonaro’s allies sung Carvalho’s praises.

“Without him, Jair Bolsonaro would not exist,” Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressman from São Paulo, told reporters as he held a green hat that bore a “Make Brasil Great Again” slogan in yellow letters. Eduardo also criticized Brazilians who have immigrated to the United States illegally.


Jair Bolsonaro himself arrived on Sunday afternoon and attended a dinner at the Brazilian Embassy, where he sat flanked by Bannon on one side and Carvalho on the other. According to Folha, the primary topic of discussion was undue Chinese influence over the Brazilian government and economy ― surely music to the ears of Carvalho, who has called China a tool of a “globalist conspiracy.” Bolsonaro’s next foreign visit is to Israel, where he could join the Trump administration in moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (The visits are the work of Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, a committed anti-globalist whom Carvalho recommended for the job.)


“The first two visits ― Washington and then Jerusalem ― are clearly part of the anti-globalist agenda,” said Oliver Stuenkel, a Brazilian political expert and international relations professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo. “This is very much a sign that foreign policy right now is under control ― at least the rhetoric is under control ― of the [anti-globalists].”


Other areas of the Brazilian government may soon be, too, if Bolsonaro’s first hours in Washington were any indication. At the embassy dinner Sunday night, Brazilian Economic Minister Paulo Guedes, the University of Chicago-trained economist who serves as the de facto leader of the Bolsonaro government’s neoliberal economic wing, bowed before the president’s guru.


“You are the leader of the revolution,” Guedes told Carvalho.

By: Travis Waldron

Source: The Huffington Post




Mariana Almeida

Arno Ambrosius

David Dunham

Gustavo López Ospina

Gertjan Storm

Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer


“Amazon Pink Dolphin” is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras. The intention of the blog is to generate debate on environmental issues; the Amazon Rain forest in particular. Contributions and support are done on a voluntary basis and do not imply institutional affiliation.  Similarly opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the official position of SVSF.


All Title photographs of the Amazon Pink fresh water Dolphin are the creation of Kevin Schafer.

~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 20 March, 2019.

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