Brazil: behind the pro-Bolsonaro attack, the leg of the American far right

The assault launched by Bolsonarists on Sunday against places of power in Brazil recalled the modus operandi of the attack on the Capitol in the United States two years ago. It must be said that the anger of the pro-Bolsonaro camp has been fueled by the propaganda of the main supporters of ex-President Donald Trump.

It’s hard not to draw the parallel. The Bolsonarist attack on the buildings of the main places of Brazilian power, Sunday, January 8, has invariably made resurrect the images of the’assault on the capitol American led by pro-Trump activists, January 6, 2021.

Especially since figures from the American far right were quick to bring out the same arguments as in 2021 to support the Brazilian rioters. Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Donald Trump and influential conspiracy theorist, praised “Brazilian freedom fighters” on Gettr, a Twitter clone popular with the alt-right, a far-right supremacist movement that uses internet codes.

A “Stop the steal” of the tropics?

For his part, Ali Alexander, an ultra-conservative agitator considered one of the organizers of the January 6, 2021 assault, hastened to ensure on Truth Social (Donald Trump’s social network) that he “would not condemn activists who organize impromptu visits to the Capitol [brésilien, le Congrès, NDLR]Even as clashes between law enforcement and Bolsonarists unfolded, he encouraged protesters to do “everything necessary” to contest the results of the October 30 presidential election, won by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva against Jair Bolsonaro.

The same goes for Matthew Tyrmand, a member of the far-right group Project Veritas, who has turned away for about ten hours from his usual targets (the American liberals) to multiply the messages proposing a Brazilian variation of the conspiratorial movement “Stop the steal” (Arrêtez le vol [de l’élection]), which argued that Donald Trump would have actually won the November 2020 election.

The enthusiasm of the pro-Trump microcosm for this explosion of violence in Brazil is the logical extension of a campaign waged from the United States to push pro-Bolsonaro activists to contest the results of the ballot last October.

The ideological proximity between Donald Trump and his troops on the one hand, and Jair Bolsonaro on the other has been documented for years. It is no coincidence that the former Brazilian president was nicknamed the “Trump of the tropics“.

But since the electoral defeat of Jair Bolsonaro, the leaders of the “Stop the steal” movement have given a serious boost to their efforts to create the illusion that the incumbent Brazilian president has been “victim” of the same electoral injustice as Donald Trump versus Joe Biden.


Last November, Eduardo Bolsonaro, one of Jair Bolsonaro’s three sons, was welcomed at Mar-o-Lago, Donald Trump’s residence in Florida, by the ex-president and his entourage to “discuss possible initiatives to contest the results of the election”, told the Washington Post.

Often presented as Jair Bolsonaro’s unofficial emissary to the pro-Trump camp, Eduardo Bolsonaro has been one of the most virulent critics of the Brazilian presidential results. He continued to contest the verdict at the polls even after his father conceded defeat.

Eduardo Bolsonaro thus applied the precepts of Steve Bannon, who made the third son Bolsonaro the spokesperson for “The Movement”presented as a “populist international”, in South America.

Steve Bannon has, in fact, devoted entire broadcasts from “War Room”his very popular podcast in North American conspiratorial circles, to the “electoral fraud” that would have allowed Lula to win.

On Gettr, he often used the hashtag #BrazilianSpring (Brazilian Spring) to suggest a parallel between the Arab Springs of the early 2010s – those revolts against authoritarian regimes in countries like Egypt and Tunisia – and the effort of bolsonarists to contest the results of the presidential election.

In the United States, the pro-Trump media set fire to the conspiratorial powder as soon as the results of the first round in Brazil were announced on October 3. The day after the election, the far-right site The Gateway Pundit had in particular affirmed that “massive fraud” had tainted the voting operations.

Conspiracy theory around electronic voting

At the center of these allegations is one of the conspirators’ favorite targets: electronic voting, which has been used in Brazil since the late 1990s. But this time, no outlandish theory that a manufacturer of electronic voting machines – Dominion – the henchman of a Venezuelan-Chinese alliance to make Donald Trump lose.

The tenors of “made in the USA” conspiracy theories have taken up the allegations made before the election by Jair Bolsonaro himself. In Brazil, where voting is entirely electronic, the outgoing president had warned against what he presented as an opaque system that could be tweaked from the inside.

Thus, one of the loudest defenders of the thesis of a rigged electronic vote in the 2020 American presidential election, Mike Lindell, the CEO of the pillow manufacturer MyPillow, argued in early November that Brazilians had the right to see how the electronic voting software worked.

This argument has since been widely taken up in both countries by far-right activists and has given rise to a famous slogan that has acted as a rallying cry for Bolsonarians: “We want the source code” (“we want the source code”). source code”, i.e. the computer code used to program the electronic voting software).

A banner brandished by the demonstrators who stormed the Brazilian Congress displayed this slogan in full. And not just in Portuguese. Several observers were surprised that the demonstrators decided to announce their demands not only in their mother tongue but also in English. “It makes you wonder where this request comes from”, wonders ironically on Twitter Pam Fessler, journalist for the American public radio NPR.

The support shown by the pro-Trump camp for the Brazilian attackers contrasts with the half-hearted reaction of Jair Bolsonaro. In a series of tweets, the former Brazilian president distanced himself very gently from the violence perpetrated by his supporters on Sunday.

A difference in tone that says a lot about the importance of this event for Steve Bannon and others. Donald Trump’s ex-adviser had assured, in the summer of 2022, that the election in Brazil “was the second most important in the world” for him. The country indeed represented in his eyes one of the main hopes for giving substance to his “populist international”.

The fact that Jair Bolsonaro accepted – however with a lot of tweezers – his defeat against Lula was a cold shower for the ambitions of the pro-Trump clique, had told the Washington Post. The Bolsonarists’ attack on Brazilian institutions has given some balm to their dream of populist greatness.

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Brazil: behind the pro-Bolsonaro attack, the leg of the American far right

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