Organizers of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference portray themselves as lovers of freedom, but among this year’s speakers will be Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Brazil’s authoritarian President Jair Bolsonaro and the leader of a right-wing party in the Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. In January, the Brazilian government filed criminal charges against American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been a harsh critic of the Bolsonaro administration.
The American Conservative Union, the group that puts on CPAC, heralded the younger Bolsonaro. Tweeting last week about Eduardo Bolsonaro’s planned appearance, ACU chair Matt Schlapp wrote, “In 2019 ACU hosted several international CPAC events, one of which was #CPACbrazil, thanks to @BolsonaroSP. At #CPAC2020 he’ll share how our conservative movement inspires freedom-loving people across the globe & how the US & Brazil can work together to stop socialism.”
But Eduardo Bolsonaro seems keen to “stop socialism” with authoritarianism. Eduardo Bolsonaro, who is also the regional representative of former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s global right-wing group The Movement, warned recently that the government could resort to repression to deal with protests and leftists “via a new AI-5.” The Guardian’s Tom Phillips explained:
That was a reference to one of the most traumatic events in recent Brazilian history – December 1968’s Institutional Act Number Five (AI-5) – when Brazil’s military rulers moved to extinguish growing political unrest by indefinitely outlawing freedom of expression and assembly and closing congress.
“The AI-5 was an instrument intended to intimidate people … It allowed the dictatorship to repress all opposition and dissent,” the historians Lilia Schwarz and Heloisa M Starling wrote in their recent “biography” of Brazil.
Eduardo Bolsonaro’s comments reportedly shocked many Brazilians, but they aligned with previous statements made by his father, who also served in the legislature before being elected president in 2018 During his presidential campaign, the theme of which was “Brazil before everything, and God above all,” Jair Bolsonaro supported the torture carried out by the military dictatorship that ran the country from 1964 to 1985, and warned that under his regime, minorities would have to “bow to the majority … or disappear.”
Right Wing Watch noted last year, a week after Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration, that he “didn’t waste much time issuing executive orders and taking other actions going after the people he had targeted in his campaign rhetoric: the LGBTQ community; indigenous people; descendants of former slaves; civil servants deemed not on board with Bolsonaro’s ideological agenda; nonprofit organizations; and the media.”
Just this week, Eduardo Bolsonaro launched a social media attack on filmmaker Petra Costa, whose documentary “The Edge of Democracy” has been nominated for an Academy Award, The Guardian reported. Eduardo Bolsonaro tweeted that Costa was a “scumbag” and a liar. He and other government officials are angry about the movie and an interview in which Costa criticized government policies encouraging the plunder of the Amazon region, a spike in police killings, the administration’s anti-gay actions and increased government censorship.
In August 2018, months before the election that made his father president, Eduardo Bolsonaro met with Bannon and announced that Bannon would be offering suggestions on online strategy and data analysis for his father’s presidential campaign. He declared that he and Bannon would “join forces” against “cultural Marxism.”
Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign was backed by U.S. religious-right leaders, including former Rep. Michele Bachmann, who met with Eduardo Bolsonaro and recorded a video message to Brazilian Christians urging them to vote “only for a candidate for the president of Brazil who will support moving the Brazilian embassy [in Israel] to Jerusalem.” Trump-supporting “prophet” Cindy Jacobs and her husband Mike Jacobs declared that Jair Bolsonaro is establishing God’s kingdom in Brazil—turning it from a “goat nation” into a “sheep nation.” (There’s a biblical passage that refers to Jesus’s second coming when all the nations will be gathered before him and he, like a shepherd, will separate the sheep from the goats.)
The Times of Israel reported that, in a visit to Israel in December, Eduardo Bolsonaro portrayed the trip as a first step toward moving Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem this year. He refused to endorse a two-state solution to peace and said he could imagine the government closing the Palestinian embassy in Brazil. While in Israel, Eduardo “reiterated his opposition to gay marriage,” saying in a television interview “that if he wedded his dog it would still not make them a family,” the Times of Israel reported.
The Bolsonaro government has been warmly embraced by the Trump administration as an ally in promoting “family values” around the world. At Jair Balsonaro’s inauguration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the new president a hug.
Last summer Jair Bolsonaro announced plans to make Eduardo Bolsonaro the country’s ambassador to the U.S, touting Eduardo’s friendship with President Trump’s sons, but the plan was abandoned in the face of resistance to “such a blatant act of nepotism.” President Trump had supported the plan, saying, “I know his son, and that’s probably why they did it. I don’t think it’s nepotism.”