Vincent Bevins is an American journalist who has worked in the UK for the Financial Times, in Brazil for The Los Angeles Times, and in Southeast Asia for The Washington Post. His book The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World is published in May. (March 2020)

Follow Vincent Bevins on Twitter: @Vinncent.


In Brazil, Bolsonaro Gambles on a Coronavirus Culture War

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro during a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic at the Planalto Palace, Brasilia, Brazil, March 20, 2020

Bolsonaro was supposed to be against the idea of the populace forming large crowds in the streets, but he began tweeting out videos of the demonstrations around the nation, obviously encouraging more of the true believers to hit the streets. Then he decided to go out himself, after all. Defying his own health minister, he greeted supporters at close quarters and posed for selfies. No mask this time. For some people, this was the last straw. Parts of big cities erupted in “panelaço,” the ritual banging of pots and pans.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Would-be Dictator

Former army captain and far-right frontrunner for the Brazilian presidency Jair Bolsonaro posing with soldiers, São Paulo, May 3, 2018

For most of his political career, Jair Bolsonaro has been a fringe figure on the far right of Brazilian politics, hopping among nine different political parties and yelling his support for Brazil’s bygone military dictatorship into empty congressional chambers. All that has changed. Last weekend, the former army captain came close to an outright win in the presidential election’s first round. He goes forward to the run-off on October 28 as the clear favorite. Brazil has been a democracy since 1989, but for the preceding quarter-century it was ruled by a brutal military regime. Bolsonaro is not merely nostalgic for that era; he would reintroduce the dictatorship’s political ethos, preserved and intact, into modern Brazil.