The Tories are all too cosy with Brazil’s far-right leader, writes Claudia Webbe MP.
The extent of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil was global news recently, when President Jair Bolsonaro was diagnosed with Covid-19.
The situation should though be in the headlines every day, and at the top of the agenda of everyone interested in fighting for justice internationally.
As of today, Brazil has the second-highest death toll and number of cases, with 2,808,076 cases and 96,096 deaths.
Health experts believe these figures represent a massive under-reporting and the situation may get worse.
A July study by Imperial College, which analysed the current transmission rate in 48 countries, showed Brazil had the highest.
Bolsonaro has taken an extreme and dangerous denialist approach to the pandemic, downplaying its seriousness, calling it ‘a little flu’ and attacking ‘media hysteria’.
While regional state governments and health officials try to contain its spread, Bolsonaro has refused to promote or implement the typical raft of life-saving measures to deal with the crisis.
Despite all this, he still wishes to reopen the economy completely.
There is also a very real risk of further transmission to remote Indigenous communities, for whom highly infectious diseases pose a devastating threat.
Already, over 16,000 Covid-19 cases have been registered among 143 Indigenous communities. Yet despite this, Bolsonaro vetoed 16 sections of a law that would have required the government to provide drinking water, disinfectants, and hospital beds for Indigenous people during the pandemic.
The far-right Bolsonaro was elected in October 2018 in a contest in which the former President Lula was favourite to win until he was jailed on trumped up charges and barred from standing.
His reactionary politics have been clearly evident in his support for the former military dictatorship in Brazil. He is on record as being in favour of torture and extrajudicial police killings. As president, he has made threatening remarks against working class organisations, women, the black population, homeless people, and the LGBTQ+ community, and set about imposing an authoritarian agenda.
This agenda has several facets. Since taking office, Bolsonaro has systematically undermined cultural, scientific and educational institutions. Through campaigns to create a sense of intimidation and fear in educational institutions, and removal of dissenting office holders from posts, Bolsonaro’s regime has laid out how ultra-conservative politics are the new norm from which deviation will not be tolerated.
The press, too, has been under attack by government officials ranging from regional courts to military police in a drive to curtail freedom of expression. In 2019 alone, there were over 200 reported attacks on the media and journalists.
Bolsonaro has also been a fervid exponent of climate denial, expressing opposition to many existing climate policies despite the Amazon fires in 2019 – most of them man-made to clear land for cattle ranching and farming with Bolsonaro’s encouragement – which devastated indigenous people’s lands and livelihoods.
What we can do
For us in Britain, it is important to hold our Government to account with regards to their attitude to this far-right regime, and to expose how – just as their ally Trump has done in the US – prominent Tories have actively supported Bolsonaro.
We recently learnt that various Tory ministers were meeting Bolsonaro, his family and allies well before he was elected, with Freedom of Information requests exposing details of undisclosed communications and meetings taking place between Bolsonaro and British officials before, during and after Bolsonaro’s election campaign. That included while Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary.
As I write, opposition to Bolsonaro within Brazil itself is increasing, ranging from the daily banging of pots and pans to protest marches and calls for impeachment.
There is growing opposition on other matters too, including his labelling of the Black Lives Matter movement as terrorists and vicious austerity programme.
International solidarity with all those affected by the full range of Bolsonaro’s disastrous policies is vital, and I was delighted to take part in an online solidarity event attended by over 2000 people – and since viewed by over 200,000 – alongside Brazil’s first ever female President Dilma Rousseff.
Through campaigns such as this international solidarity statement, Labour Party members, the Brazil Solidarity Initiative, trade unions, environmental and anti-racist activists, and many more will be speaking out against the Tories’ cosy relationship with Bolsonaro and in solidarity with the resistance.
The people of Brazil must know that they do not stand alone.
Pic: Via Flickr