What happened in Brazil in 1964 and Indonesia in 1965 may have been the most important victories of the cold war for the side that ultimately won—that is, the United States and the global economic system now in operation. Most shockingly, the two events led to the creation of a monstrous international network of extermination—that is, the systematic mass murder of civilians—across many more countries, which played a fundamental role in building the world we all live in today. I fear that the truth of what happened contradicts so forcefully our idea of what the cold war was, of what it means to be an American, or how globalization has taken place, that it has simply been easier to ignore it.
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.
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.