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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Assembles His “Army”

#Brazils #Bolsonaro #Assembles #Army

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro often speaks about his “army,” the die-hard supporters who fueled his election campaign four years ago.

When the far-right incumbent submitted his re-election bid on Tuesday and marched behind his left-wing nemesis, ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) into October’s Brazilian elections, Bolsonaro’s uncompromising supporters were on the front lines.

“I swear to you again I will give my life to defend our freedom,” the 67-year-old ex-army captain told an enthusiastic crowd in Juiz de Fora, the southeastern city where he narrowly survived a knife attack a year ago 2018

This attack, perpetrated by a man later found mentally unfit to stand trial, cemented Bolsonaro’s image in supporters’ minds as their “Messiah” or Messiah – his middle name.

Four years later, Bolsonaro is struggling to mend his image as the savior sent to unsettle a political establishment that has been battered by a series of crises, including his government’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic and soaring inflation.

Bolsonaro, who is more than 10 points behind Lula in many opinion polls, is increasingly directing his anti-establishment attacks on Brazil’s e-voting system and stoking fears that he might refuse to accept the election result if he loses.

Many Brazilians fear that if he is defeated, Bolsonaro could try to follow in the footsteps of his political role model, former US President Donald Trump – who is currently being banned by a congressional committee for his denial of his 2020 election loss and his role in supporting rowdy supporters angered, who attacked the Capitol in Washington to prevent Congress from confirming the finding.

With some warning, a similar script could play out in Brazil, with Bolsonaro’s “army” in the spotlight.

Felipe Vicente Alves, who was in the middle of the crowd at Tuesday’s rally, remembers all too well the day Bolsonaro was stabbed.

“I was right here. I followed the march and saw everyone gathered around him to save him,” said the 41-year-old insurance broker, who carries the yellow and green Brazilian flag.

“I spent the rest of the day praying for him.”

Alves said he believes Bolsonaro will win the election on the first round, calling opinion polls “rigged”.

– weapons and flags –

When things don’t go the way his candidate does, Alves said he knows what to do.

“If we have to fight for our country, we will fight – if necessary with weapons,” he told the AFP news agency.

His brother Carlos Henrique Augusto is also behind Bolsonaro – but is more moderate.

“We don’t want a civil war. The media created this monster, this idea that all Bolsonaro supporters are armed and shooting at people. That’s not true,” he said amidst a sea of ​​flag-waving supporters.

“We just want citizens to have the right to defend themselves.”

Gun ownership has boomed in Brazil under gun rights advocate Bolsonaro, whose signature gesture is a pistol held with thumb and forefinger.

According to a recent study, the number of privately owned guns in Brazil has doubled to almost two million since 2018.

“I have a gun and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it,” said Bolsonaro supporter Joao Vitor Ferreira, 39, who was at the presidential rally with his wife and nine-year-old daughter.

Nearby, supporters of the man nicknamed “Tropical Trump” held up a banner highlighting the close ties between Bolsonaro and his former US counterpart.

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