Brazil presidential election run-off (10/30/2022)

If you like your background in video form here’s John Oliver: Bolsonaro: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube

Quick and dirty version for the readers…

Brazil is in the midst of a presidential election. Incumbent Jair Bolsanaro is South America’s Trump complete with claiming election fraud leading up to the election. One added wrinkle is that the military is openly on his side.

On October 2nd, they held an election but no candidate received 50% of the vote so the top two candidates are in a run-off election happening today (10/30). Leftist former president Lula (short for an enormous name) finished first to Bolsanaro’s second.

I’m having a lot of trouble evaluating sources from Brazil, but it looks like Bolsanaro tried to use the military and police to shut down traffic in pro-Lula areas.

Here’s the head of one Twitter thread on that topic:

Despite that, it appears that Lula has prevailed in a pretty close race.

The question is… what happens now? Bolsanaro doesn’t seem like the graceful loser type. We could be on the precipice of a full scale coup. Brazil has only been a democracy since 1985, when they got rid of a military dictatorship. Plenty of people alive who remember those ‘good’ old days.

Does anyone have any insight into Brazil politics?

Lula won!

That appears to be the case right now.

I think he is scheduled to assume office Jan 1st, 2023. Will he?

Including Bolisarno, who has said that there were good things about the military dictatorship.

I have no idea. The point is that there are people alive who remember those days, and almost certainly those millions of people fall on both sides of the issue.

This is great news, although I worry about what Bolsanaro and his thugs might yet do. Bolsonaro had earlier said that the only three options for him in the election were “victory, imprisonment, or death”. Fucking unhinged nutbar.

On the downside, the name “Lula” always activates the earworm “Lola” (“tastes just like cherry cola”).


That would be me? I’m European but am currently living in Rio de Janeiro. Some 8 years in total experience in Brazil, in two stretches, in Rio and in Brasilia.

Before getting to the specific “what happens now” question in the OP, in my opinion one of the biggest problems with discussions about Bolsonaro (hereafter Bozo, as it’s shorter and in common usage here) is that media, and by extension those who read/watch them, discuss him with a base level of respect he doesn’t merit. It’s similar to the Trump and Johnson problems, where Trump was/is referred to typically as something like “billionaire real estate developer/reality show star” rather than “serially bankrupt alleged billionaire, whose fortune would have been larger invested in stocks than attempting to do business”, and Johnson was typically referred to as “former mayor of London Boris Johnson” rather than “liar Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson, fired from journalism jobs for lying”, except for Bozo it’s on steroids. There is no insult, curse-word, or general negative moniker that doesn’t apply to that person, apart from possibly “necrophiliac” and “regicide”. (I used to also exclude “pedophile”, but then: Bolsonaro says he 'felt a spark' with '14-year-old girls' - 17/10/2022 - Brazil - Folha )

So to get closer to the point, Bozo isn’t “right-wing former paratrooper Jair Bolsonaro”. Slightly more correct IIRC would be “failed gym teacher”, and he left the army as just a captain in a country where promotion is mostly by seniority, which is impressive. But what every resident of Rio, and most of Brazil, knows but the media can’t properly report due to the risk of libel laws when an allegation isn’t proven, is that Bozo is above all (allegedly, etc. if the federal police is reading) a miliciano, specifically a leader in the milicia.

Crime in Brazilian cities, especially Rio, is divided into traficantes and milicia. The former are drug traffickers, with side lines in rent/taxes in favelas, robbery, and the samba schools; mostly from destitute backgrounds, which correlates with race here, and mostly young (since children can’t be punished under the law, and under-18 teens can at most serve a few years in juvie for crimes, even muder). The latter group is typically/originally made up for former soldiers, off-duty police, and similar, and ostensibly exist to protect property and fight the traficantes to keep drugs out of their community. In practice they set up protection rackets, gambling, “tax” services (i.e. since we don’t buy the local milicia’s preferred fiber internet package, every month or two they stop by outside to cut our cable), and crucially, set up death squads - to murder suspected traficantes because they believe the justice system doesn’t address the problem (and unfortunately there is some truth to that), but also to murder prosecutors, police, and judges that aren’t on board.

Bozo has to be seen in that context. When we define bad world leaders in a few words, then for example, Trump is a narcissistic idiot; Johnson is a liar; Putin is a violent mob boss; and Bozo is a miliciano. Pretending that he’s anything else is like calling Al Capone a tax cheat. It’s technically true, but doesn’t touch his essence.

Again, the problem is outright proof, same as with Capone, but for example: This article refers to a story where an ex-policeman, one of the most wanted milicianos, was killed by police. Bozo had him decorated. He couldn’t accept the decoration at the time because he was in prison for murder. (Acquitted on appeal) Bolsonaro diz que a Polícia Militar da Bahia matou o ex-PM Adriano da Nóbrega | Jornal Nacional | G1

Here’s a case where a politican was elected. In the Brazilian system, there’s usually (always?) a suplente, a backup or vice-whatever, in case the elected person can’t take on the job. The suplente, a miliciano, wanted the position for himself, so he had the elected congressperson murdered along with their family. In the vote to impeach/remove the murderer from congress, who spoke in his defence? Bozo. A confusão de Bolsonaro sobre acusação de defender estuprador | VEJA

There’s plenty of other accusations of Bozo being involved in conspiracies to commit murder in Rio, as well as the allegation that he was dismissed from the army for attempted terrorism (planning to blow up military installations) over a pay dispute (that also gets fuzzy on appeal, he was jailed over another issue and not ultimately dismissed in disgrace, but the police says the bombing plans were there and were his É falso que Bolsonaro foi expulso do Exército e preso por terrorismo ), and of course the long list of speeches in favour of the military dictatorship, torture/murder of leftists, and all the other crap that leaves his mouth. That’s without touching on his policy of burning down the Amazon to make unproductive cattle farms, letting illegal gold panning (garimpo) poison the rivers and the panners murder indigenous communities, decimating productive industry, and letting hundreds of thousands die unnecessarily with his Covid response, and so much more, all of which are better addressed in global media as they are immune to libel charges. Like, here’s where Bozo blames NGOs for climate crimes in the Amazon at the UN without evidence:

A final bit of context: Brazil is a multiparty democracy that forms coalition governments, so there’s no need for Red vs Blue voting like with US Democrats vs Republicans or UK Labour vs Tory. Governing coalitions have changed multiple times. If Brazil(ians) genuinely wanted a plausible conservative leader (whether in the social or economic sense) there’s no lack of choice, even in this month’s first round of voting. That out of all possible candidates, out of a population of ~214 million people, anybody wants this fucking guy is unbelievable. Even the military have been fairly lukewarm (publicly) in general to Bozo. His voter base is evangelicals, whose for-profit church pastors tell them that the best defender of evangelical morals is a (shitty) Catholic on his 3rd wife who gleefully speaks in favour of rape, racism, and sexism; people who hear the hateful rhetoric, and say yes please, I’ll have some of that; the agricultural lobby who profit from the non-enforcement of Brazil’s on-paper-actually-pretty-good environmental laws; those who benefit from the colossal scale of the Bozo government corruption; and idiots who believe that everyone left of Bozo is a literal communist who wants mandatory abortions for all, mandatory sex changes for youth, and hands-on gay sex education in school.

So at long last we come to your question, what’s next? Lula is, simultaneously, the best leader Brazil has ever had (the other candidates in my opinion are a near-fascist, Getúlio Vargas, and Emperor Pedro II who let slavery continue until 1888 - so, to put it mildly, not great), and no prize. The PT government was also corrupt, just not on Bozo’s scale. Lula is actually pretty centrist, the best things his government ever did was maintain and/or expand previous governments’ good policies (the plano real which reformed the currency, and by extension, the economy; and the bolsa escola, which became the bolsa familia, which provided a social benefit that lifted millions out of poverty), while the tradition had been to scrap everything from the predecessor and starting over, badly. The economic boom in Lula’s first governing period was due to the boost in commodity prices - that’s not likely to save Lula now, and the cooling of the economy was a major factor in Dilma’s (Lula’s appointed seat-warmer, though that didn’t work out for him as planned) impeachment and removal. Finally, the first round elected a vast swathe of fascist-adjacent Bozo supporters as governors, congresscritters, and senators for both the national and state congresses. Lula, if he survives to 1 January, will face strong opposition on the federal and state levels from these people until he (I would say inevitably) bribes the centrão, which has been the only way to govern in recent decades. After all, they’re the guys who sat on the 145 requests for Bozo’s impeachment in the federal congress ( Pedidos de impeachment de Bolsonaro chegam a 145: um a cada 9 dias ) The first Lula government had the mensalão scandal ( Escândalo do mensalão – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre. ) to accomplish the same thing, bribing Congress to vote with the PT government. Fun fact, the guy who denounced the mensalão is a Bozo ally who just tried to commit suicide-by-cop by attacking police with rifle fire and grenades. He’s in house arrest.

Point being: Lula was the best choice and best chance to win against what I genuinely think is the worst world leader that has ever been democratically elected. The upcoming Lula government will either be a failure, or will resort to corruption for governance, or will be a corrupt failure. Bozo and his allies do not have a single redeeming feature between them, yet I have to live with the fact that half of my neighbours want him in power. I have to wind up some investments here, and then my (Brazilian) fiancee and I are out of here.

Thanks for this insightful post

Toffe, that was an extraordinarily informative analysis!

Excellent post indeed, thank you for that.

What I know about Bozo is pretty much just from John Oliver and very little else.

Thank you so much for responding. I was hoping the SDMB would have someone with a front row seat. and @Toffe did not disappoint.

What’s it like the day after the election? Business as usual or is there tension? It was quite close, but it wasn’t close everywhere. Are you in a pro-Lula area? Has there been any violence or do you anticipate any violence? Are people holding their breathe until Jan 1 or are they mostly relaxed and confident things will work out in accordance with the will of the people?

That’s a lot of questions. As I typed more kept coming to me. Any answers you provide will be appreciated.

I assume this is what people mean when they say that the Mexican cartels wouldn’t be high and dry if drugs were legalized tomorrow…

As others, I greatly appreciate this post.

Glad to contribute!

Well, first off, now the news is filtering out about the police having set up road blocks to impede voting, e.g.:

What I always say about Brazil is that the laws, constitution, etc. are actually generally positive and progressive, the problem is always enforcement. So, messing with people’s votes is a very serious crime, and there’s a separate supreme court to deal with electoral issues, so this is likely to develop into a real scandal. There might even be consequences. Let’s see!

Next up was discovering that truckers are blocking highways here in protest, obviously imitating alt-right jackasses in North America, e.g.: Motoristas são hostilizados e têm carros atacados durante protesto de caminhoneiros na Via Dutra, em Barra Mansa | Sul do Rio e Costa Verde | G1

It’s tricky to talk about “business as usual” or “tension” because the past few years have been a sort of collective insanity, and I don’t know or understand if this is the new normal, or if it’s a passing phase. There were politically motivated murders of PT supporters by Bozo supporters in the run-up to the election, I haven’t heard of anything like that since the dictatorship period; usually political violence is between the actual politicians themselves as they jockey for power. I haven’t heard of any new violence today, but then I haven’t been seeking out the news.

What I mean about collective insanity is that society has grown divided between, well, a functioning society of diverse valid opinions vs total asshats. Flying a Brazilian flag is an explicit political statement now. So is wearing a football jersey of the national team. I feel uncomfortable riding my motorcycle because bikers are associated with Bozo rallies; I just want to ride my bike. All those were innocuous statements in the past, i.e. having a flag just meant you were happy to be Brazilian (or in Brazil), wearing a football jersey just meant “go team!”, riding a Harley meant you have a Harley and want to ride it. This year marked 200 years of Brazilian independence, yet since the fanatics have associated anything to do with Brazilian patriotism with Bozo’s death cult, the celebrations were minimal and downbeat since they were a political campaign aimed at the lunatic base. That also showed itself more surreptitiously - there was a gathering of tall ships (well, mostly, Colombia IIRC sent a powered frigate) from around South America to celebrate 200 years of Latin American independence movements through sea power, but Chile was conspicuously absent, and apparently never invited. Which is sort of like excluding France from a celebration of revolutionary republican movements. Chile’s naval war with the help of Thomas Cochrane was essential to Chilean independence. Gee, I wonder if it has to do with the recently-elected Chilean president being a leftist, while Bozo rants about communist takeovers… Venezuela and Cuba weren’t present either, though at least there’s some consistency there with earlier governments.

As for whether I’m in a pro-Lula area - on balance I think yes, based on the joyous yelling last night. OTOH it’s also a milicia-dominated area, but the traficantes are nearby just uphill. Running gunbattles with automatic rifle fire and grenades are a regular occurance, as in often several times a week. (Yeah, I don’t want to be here either. I was supposed to be back for a few months for a course, but then Covid lockdown happened and I got stuck here.) My regular street food vendor must be a miliciano, at least his brother would rabidly spout pro-Bozo rhetoric at clients who just wanted their damn BBQ.

The non-cultists just want to get on with their lives. Probably the evangelicals too, who probably (hopefully?) mostly just voted how they did because they were told to. That doesn’t necessarily correlate with either being confident things will work out, or with holding their breath until the passing of the presidential sash. I think it’s this sort of thing that got Bozo elected in the first place - the corruption of the Dilma & Temer presidencies, plus the fall in the standard of living, was pretty darn bad, plus the level of crime and generalised violence (especially in Rio) by the end of it was horrific in the public eye - as in they sent the marines in APCs into the favelas because the police couldn’t handle it anymore. So Bozo appeared as an outsider not-part-of-the-system candidate (despite being in Rio municipal and then state government since 1989) promising to fight corruption (despite, well, COME ON) and got the vote based on the hope that people could just live their lives with slightly less corruption and crime than they would with Haddad, the second-round alternative who was yet another PT candidate.

I will say that a fair few people are expecting that the crazies will come out with election denialism and try to prevent the peaceful handover of power. Likely the expectation is that, if it happens at all, it’ll be a lot like 9 January in the USA, with some unhinged hicks causing some limited violence and property damage but ultimately just jeopardising their own cause while accomplishing nothing. Let’s hope!

Frickin’ avocados. Mexican drug cartels are getting into the avocado and lime business : NPR

The problem with that is, out to Brazil but into… where? the US? you have the same problem there, I’would invite you to move here to Argentina… but I’m not sure we will not be be facing the same issue in a few years, the world is getting terrifying.

Absolutely not the US, I find the politics there terrifying, from both sides. With some of the stamps in my passport I wouldn’t be welcome anyway.

I grew up in Africa, so I’m fine with a lower base standard of living than my European compatriots would generally be content with, as well as with baseline social views wildly different from my own. The one thing I ask is that the country/society is generally headed in the right direction, even if two steps forward, one step back (which is how I would describe Brazil under my last stay here, which was mostly under Dilma). That fully half the population of Brazil has looked at the last four years of maladministration and said “I’ll have some more of that, thanks!” has made me lose all faith in Brazilian progress in the short term. So that’s where I agree with you that the world is getting terrifying. What gives me hope is that it may pass. Colombia and Chile elected the less-insane presidential candidates running recently. Poland’s government is getting a little less nuts after the invasion of Ukraine. Orban and Erdogan have the capacity to be far worse, and yet are so far choosing not to be.

I have permanent residency here which means I can live anywhere in Mercosur, plus as a location-independent remote IT worker I could set up my own company for residence pretty much anywhere else. I’m hoping to check out Argentina next year actually. I also liked Uruguay, though I wish Mujica was still around. I think I’d prefer Colombia, Belize, or Mexico though, based mostly on historical and cultural interest, while She Who Must Be Obeyed is curious about Ecuador and Paraguay.

Nice!, it looks like we are going to get a right wing government in 2024 here, (then again may be not, it all depends on the economic situation improving), the problem is if it will be “sane” right wing or “trumpian/bolzo” right wing, there are troubling signals pointing to the later option.

Bolosonaro has sorta, kinda, acknowledged the election results, by authorising the transition to begin:

Even though Mr Bolsonaro did not himself acknowledge defeat in his own words, Brazil’s Supreme Court released a statement shortly after his speech saying that by authorising the transition of power, he had recognised the result of the election.

So far this is going much more smoothly than I expected. When the army and police teamed up cause vote suppressing traffic jams on election day I was pretty sure that a coup was unavoidable.