After Bolsonaro’s Failures, Why Was Brazil’s Election So Close?

Yves here. This interview helps unpack why Lulu’s victory wasn’t as resounding as many outsiders anticipate. One general issue that’s often underestimated is that in bad economic times, the center of gravity of voting typically moves to the right, and that fueled Bolsonaro’s rise. But Bolsonaro also has a strong base in the evangelical right.

By Paul Jay. Originally published at

Paul Jay

Hi. Welcome to I’m Paul Jay. We’ll be back in just a few seconds to discuss the results of the Brazilian elections and try to answer the question, how the hell was that election so close? Please don’t forget there’s a donate button. We are coming near the end of the year, and I know people are thinking about donating some money unless you lost it all in the stock markets, in which case you have my sympathy. If you do have some money to donate, and you might like to donate to theAnalysis, please come to our website and click on the donate button. Don’t forget to subscribe and get on the email list. Will be back in just a few seconds.

[Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] has won the presidential elections in Brazil by a whisker– 50.9% to [Jair] Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. Why was it so close? Bolsonaro is arguably even crazier than Donald Trump. He mishandled the COVID situation even worse than Trump if that’s possible, and his family and many of his allies are up to their eyeballs in corruption. Why did he come within 2% of Lula and almost get reelected? Given the amount of support the far-right politics has, what does it mean for the future of Brazil?

Now, joining us to help answer that question is Lorena Barberia. She’s a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of São Paulo. Thanks for joining me again, Lorena.

Lorena Barberia

Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s good to be here and have a chance to talk about these really exciting moments in Brazil.

Paul Jay

So before we get into what may come next, let me ask you– I was in São Paulo in the early ’90s, so that’s 30 years ago. I was researching a film called Modern Slavery at the time and went up to the Amazon and places. I was in a barrio in São Paulo, and I was meeting with worker after worker who were progressives. Many of them were unionized auto workers, although I was surprised to find how many auto workers lived in barrios. I guess that, at least, then was the case, and it may still be. The barrios were far from any place that I would have thought could ever have supported Bolsonaro.

After four years of Bolsonaro, who, as I said, is probably more batshit crazy than Trump and probably mishandled the COVID crisis worse than Trump. How the heck does he come so close to being reelected?

Lorena Barberia

We have to go a little bit back in history to understand the present. I think what’s important about what you were talking about– about being in São Paulo in that period, which is when Lula started his political career– is throughout this period, we have a dramatic and very difficult economic reality in Brazil, especially if we look at the last couple of years. We’ve had really lackluster growth before Bosonaro was elected already. So we had recurring economic crises and deindustrialization, which culminated in rising unemployment before Bolsonaro got elected.

Bolsonaro gets elected as a surprise candidate. It’s really important to remember he gets elected; his political platform is PowerPoint slides. He didn’t even have a government plan when he launched his presidential election in 2018. He’s a surprise outsider, and no one expected him to be elected. The reaction and the response to the PT and to the corruption scandals were so strong that he slowly started to gain speed in the election. He gets attacked. He gets knifed. Someone stabbed him with a knife during the electoral campaign, and he was hospitalized. That’s a major turnaround in the 2018 election in which he rises.

Once that happened, there was that attempt; some questioned if it really happened or if it was orchestrated. There are disputes about if he was really attacked physically and violently, but that was a major turning point in the election. After that, it was very difficult for him to be defeated.

Fernando Haddad comes very– who is the ex-Minister of Education in Lula’s government, came close, but he lost in the first round, and in the second round, he only earned 44% of the votes.

Paul Jay

That’s the candidate of the PT– the Workers Party.

Lorena Barberia

Yes, as a candidate for the PT.

Coming very quickly up to thinking about what’s happening before this election, we have already in Brazil a very stark, strong contrast between the PT, which changed a lot from the PT– at the moment when you’re talking about how the PT originated and the origins of the PT. The PT became a mainstream political party, negotiated with the center, and governed with the center. The vice presidents in Lula’s first and second terms and in Dilma’s [Rousseff] terms, first term and second term, were always center-right parties that they aligned with in order to govern. The PT changed and compromised a lot in order to be able to govern Brazil.

In the 2018 election, there was already a very strong anti-PT reaction to corruption allegations, and that made it very difficult for the PT to compete and to make the candidacy. The other reason was that Lula was denied the opportunity to run in 2018 because of the corruption scandal, and he was in jail. There was a lot of questioning of the legitimacy of the accusations, the legitimacy of the trials, and how the evidence was politically motivated and used by judges to put him in jail. I think that’s the backdrop leading up to 2022.

Paul Jay

Let me just jump in for a second. Just for a second. Two things. One is, okay, maybe I can understand at the very beginning, when Bolsonaro first gets elected, people can be confused. The economy wasn’t as good as–

For people watching, if you see my earphones just magically popped on my head, it’s because I had one of these battery-powered things, and it just died on me. I thought it was okay.

So let me go ahead with my question. So if we go back to when Bolsonaro first gets elected, the economy is not doing nearly as well. A lot of the promises during Lula’s time had been met. Life got better for people, but then it wasn’t getting better for people. I can understand why a lot of people get confused and vote for Bolsonaro.

Now, one, it’s not like Bolsonaro made the economy any better. Two, the corruption of Bolsonaro is pretty well known, and I thought most of the corruption charges against Lula turned out to be fabricated, and the guy who was the judge then became the bloody Minister of Justice in Bolsonaro’s government. Explain this moment. How do people, half the voting population, still vote for this guy?

Lorena Barberia

So I think one thing that’s important to understand is, in general, in this election, most of the candidates who came forward to compete against Bolsonaro weren’t on the Left. Most of the other candidates, the alternatives to Lula, were right-wing candidates. Lula formed a coalition– it’s what’s called in Latin America a ‘Frente Ampla’. It’s a broad coalition. The big tent that tries to bring the center, more progressive parties into the center to join with the PT and to run against Bolsonaro.

This is a moderate, broad-based coalition of political parties. There are ten parties backing Lula in the election who agree to have a single candidacy, and the vice president running is a former PSDB, presidential candidate, who ran against Lula, Geraldo Alckmin, who is the former governor of São Paulo State.

The idea is, on one side, we have a center-left coalition. In addition to Bolsonaro, there are more right-wing parties that are launching candidates and actually pushing the election to debate the issues even more on the Right of the political spectrum than Bolsonaro already is. That’s the first round of the election.

I think in the first round of the election, we really had most of the political parties, in addition to Balsonaro, attacking Lula’s candidacy. It was a very difficult first round, mostly centered around a lot of political scandals and accusations of corruption. That was the big issue. Who is more corrupt? Do we want the corruption of the past, or do we want the corruption of the present? That was the dominating issue.

In the second round, we finally, as the other candidates disappeared and it was just Bolsonaro and Lula facing off, at least we got a little bit into some of the big issues right now that are of concern to the Brazilian electorate. Namely, what happened during the pandemic. Was Bolsonaro right or wrong in saying that it was not his fault that the situation was as bad as it was, which is what his argument was in the elections? The other issue was who was more corrupt? Is Lulu corrupt, or is Bolsonaro? Then we still had a lot of scandals in the middle of all of this, taking attention away from the issues.

I think one thing that’s really important to underscore is that Bolsonaro got this close because the Brazilian electorate, in general, is quite right-wing and conservative. After this election, that becomes really visible. If we look at the gubernatorial elections, if we look at the vote in the national election, it comes quite clear that there is a strong anti-PT vote that is very present in the majority of Brazil, in the majority of the states.

One of the things that made Bolsonaro so effective in this campaign was his use of bringing back “anything is better than bringing back the PT into government.” That was his big thing in reminding voters, “do you really want the PT to come back? If you don’t, the only way out is voting for me, which you already know what I’m about.” As an electorate, that’s pretty moderate, conservative, and also very religious. The evangelical movement was very active in the elections, which really helped him to secure more political support.

I think another reason, though, that’s important to understand about how we got to where we got and where we are is to also underscore that Bolsonaro hasn’t yet conceded the election. The election results were announced last night. The judge of the Supreme Electoral Court announced the decision. The President of the Senate accepted the results. Several of his ministers have come out to acknowledge the results, but he has yet to concede the election. That was another big thing that we had looming in the middle of all of the election—questioning the legitimacy of the voting process of elections and of the way that elections are undertaken in Brazil.

I think another reason that Bolsonaro was so effective is that he cast a lot of doubt on the institutions of democracy. Doubt about the judiciary system. Doubt about Congress. Doubt about how these institutions are biased against him. He consistently argues this. He’s a victim of a process that is geared to deny him political power and that somehow the system is always rigged against him.

Paul Jay

We know. We’ve heard that argument.

Lorena Barberia


Paul Jay

Very Trumpian.

Lorena Barberia

Yes, and the last part is that because he engaged in a lot of fiscal manipulations to try to buy the election, and he got away with things that historically are unprecedented in terms of getting– usually what happens right before the election. There are a lot of prohibitions on fiscal spending that you don’t have a lot of room to maneuver in the six months before an election. Bolsonaro was granted all kinds of authorizations by Congress to spend discretionary amounts of funds and try to do different things in order to target specific places and target specific types of voters. He increased the cash transfer program. He increased discretionary spending to specific municipalities to try to wheel and deal with mayors and governors to go out and lobby for him and get political support for him.

There were multiple scandals because what happened is we had a very big corruption scandal around the budget. What happened is he took the budget, which is programmatic, and converted a portion of this budget into a secret budget that is discretionary. Programs that should be funded, like pharmacies; distributing medicines to pharmacies in the public health system, were defunded. These funds went into a slush fund that he was using to hand out to mayors and to governors to buy political support.

I think another reason why he got so close is that he really put a lot of economic power into trying to get votes and buy votes. It’s really stunning. If we look at all of what happened and add in fake news and all the shenanigans and the scandals that were going on, it’s amazing that we’re still able to look at the results that we have right now and that Lula was able to secure the election. The degree of intervention, questioning institutions, using fiscal policy, constantly running fake news, and not debating the issues was a really difficult issue. It was a very difficult election to win.

Paul Jay

Now, didn’t people’s lives get better, on the whole, working people’s lives, when Lula was president? I know the Left, much of the Left, was disappointed. They thought Lula should have done more. Maybe he should have. Maybe he couldn’t have. Putting that debate aside, people’s lives did get better, by my understanding, and they did not get better under Bolsonaro.

In spite of everything you said, wouldn’t it have been more disillusionment with Bolsonaro? I know you worked specifically on the COVID issue, and Brazil was one of the worst in the world in dealing with COVID. He seems to have just– what they used to call Reagan, President Reagan, the ‘Teflon man’. He seems to slide off. It doesn’t seem to matter.

How much is Christian nationalism? How big a factor is this? I know in the United States, a big portion, not all, but a big portion of Trump’s support is evangelical Christians, right-wing Catholic Christians, but Christian nationalism as a whole. In a sense, they actually don’t care what Trump does or doesn’t do. He’s a vehicle for their overarching ideology. Is that also the case in Brazil? To what extent is the American Christian Right supporting, helping, guiding, and financing the Christian Right in Brazil?

Lorena Barberia

Bolsonaro’s wife is a very prominent evangelical. She follows the evangelical movement. They bring pastors with them when they travel across the country. When Bolsonaro accepted, initially, when he won the elections in 2018, on the right-hand side, he brought a pastor while he read his election acceptance speech. Religion and the evangelical religion have been very, very important. Even more important than in the U.S. You never had Trump bringing in evangelical pastors on Air Force One, traveling around during the campaign, and constantly using evangelical pastors in different ways and using this language. Even up until the last moment, Bolsonaro was tweeting biblical passages on Twitter, and his wife was as well. They were trying to gain sensibilities with the evangelical electorates. I think it’s really important to understand.

In addition to this, there is a perception in this– I think that this movement is very different from the Christian Right in the U.S., in several instances, in the sense that this evangelical movement in Brazil has a really different way of thinking about Bolsonaro in a way he is associated religiously as a symbol. Only God can explain that he survived an assassination attempt while running in 2018.

During the election, Bolsonaro’s wife used a lot of analogies to make sure that voters understood Lula as Satan. Lula, whose wife– he was a widow, he’s married for the third time in his life– Lula’s wife as a non-christian, or maybe somebody who is not Catholic, and we need to be worried about her religious orientation as well as Lula’s religious orientation. During the last debate, Bolsonaro repeatedly accused Lula of being in favor of abortion by saying, “you are in an aborter.”

Lula’s first wife died in labor. He lost his firstborn child. He lost his wife when he was very young. He was 17 years old. He lost them during labor. It has nothing to do with abortion. The way that even in this debate, Bolsonaro was allowed to bring into the debate and accuse Lula of being in favor of abortion. I think we don’t have an idea of or a difficulty in understanding a strongly Catholic nation like Brazil. You have a very strong Catholic orientation. You have a very strong Christian evangelical movement. The idea of manipulating and bringing these things of Satan and that this person is in favor of abortion, really scares or brings fear to more conservatives.

Paul Jay

Why is it you’re saying that’s different than the United States? That’s exactly what’s going on in the United States. [crosstalk 00:25:04].

Lorena Barberia

Abortion isn’t legal in Brazil in the same way as it is in the U.S. There are still a lot of taboos around this. When we think about these issues, we have these very big decisions right now in Brazil. The only way that you’re allowed to have an abortion is in the case of rape.

There was a twelve-year-old child who was raped, and Bolsonaro’s judges denied the right to an abortion of the twelve-year-old child. There was a huge back and forth so that by the time the child was finally allowed to undergo the medical procedure, because of the judicial disputes in the case, the pregnancy was quite advanced.

There were two major incidents of this kind. What happened is, if you think about the abortion issue– why I’m contrasting it in the case of the U.S. It’s not something that’s common, that you’re allowed or that people have an experience of knowing people who have this as a right, that is a medical operation that a woman can undergo if she chooses to. It’s very limited reasons and justifications why a woman can undergo this procedure.

The only cases that came forward during Bolsonaro’s administration that he really manipulated were these horrible cases of young children who had been raped and who needed an abortion, and who even in those cases, he was adamantly against the right to an abortion of these young children and his wife spoke about it.

If you can think about it, it really is an extreme scenario. Thinking about little children who are raped. It’s not a woman and a woman’s choice. This is a much more even difficult issue to talk about in [inaudible 00:27:23] case.

Paul Jay

Where is Lula on the question of abortion? What do Brazilian women, at the very least, Brazilian women and I would think many men, too, aren’t they willing to be pro-abortion in more cases than a child’s rape and not even that under Bolsonaro? Again, when I was in Brazil, there seemed like such a strong Left. It’s hard to understand this.

Lorena Barberia

It is hard to understand. Lula is anti-abortion. He said that in the presidential debates, when Bolsonaro attacked him, he said, “neither I nor have none of my partners in my life have ever been pro-choice.” I think that’s important.

Suppose we think about the U.S. case. A progressive candidate in the U.S. would never say or take a statement of disavowing or not being vehement about a woman’s right to a choice over her own body. There’s a very prominent woman’s rights lawyer who has done a lot of work on abortion, and she actually had to leave because of death threats, and she’s in exile in the U.S. She’s a visiting scholar. Throughout Bolsonaro’s administration, she had to be under police protection because of the multiple death threats that she received.

I think it’s important to understand. It is a conservative, Catholic-Christian country. Abortion is not something that is– it’s still a very controversial issue in Brazil, and it’s a very difficult issue for the women’s movement in Brazil to talk about. In contrast to Latin America, recently, we’ve seen a lot of work in Argentina, Chile, and different countries in Latin America that have been able to pass legislation that is more progressive around abortion and allowing women to choose. That is not the case yet in Brazil.

Paul Jay

Did the Catholic Church support Bolsonaro?

Lorena Barberia

The Catholic Church was divided. We had a lot of priests and bishops that came forward and supported Lula. I think what’s important to signal is that one of the reasons Lula was able to win and is unquestionable is because of moderate women who are political leaders in Brazil– Simone Tebet, who was a Senator. She was the MDP candidate in the presidential election. Marina Silva, his former environmental minister, but had broken away from the PT and ran as a presidential candidate two elections ago. These women who were not initially on board with Lula came on board and became very strong supporters in the last weeks of the election.

Once Simone Tebet didn’t get enough votes in the first round to be the competitor, she quickly embraced Lula, embraced the coalition, and became a really huge, huge source of support. It’s the same thing for Marina Silva. There are also other senators and governors that are female leaders that were really important to coming on board and being very, very strong political forces in working to win the moderate vote to go to Lula.

Paul Jay

Did the Left as a whole more or less support Lula, or was there a division there when it came down to the final election?

Lorena Barberia

Yes. Now the Left was supporting Lula and was backing Lula. The issue that is really hard is to win the middle voters– the swing voters. The more moderate voters in the center of Brazil supported Simone Tebet and Ciro Gomes as alternatives to Lula. Once the first round ended, there was a lot of division. Ironically, what Lula really needed to do was, even though he already had a line, his vice president was from the center-right party. Lula had to continue to get more moderate supporters to win those voters. He didn’t need help on the Left. What he needed was help on the Right.

Paul Jay

Now, one of the things in the U.S. is almost all the big cities are one way or the other, at the very least, anti-Trump and vote Democrat. There is certainly a much more progressive vote in the big cities, and it’s in the sort of extended suburbs and rural United States where you get support for the Republican Party.

I saw in São Paulo, the governor is a right-wing governor in this massive urbanized city that, again, I was in, and it seemed like a left-wing city back in the 1990s.

Lorena Barberia

Yes. So the good news is, at the national level, Lula won, but in São Paulo state, the largest and wealthiest state in Brazil with over 40 million people, Bolsonaro’s candidate– no history of this political party really being a dominant force in the state. He launches this candidate, and he supports this candidate; it’s his Infrastructure Minister. This Infrastructure Minister runs against Fernando Haddad, who was the Minister of Education in Lula’s government for the first seven years. It was a very important election for Lula. Lula did a lot of campaigning in São Paulo. Haddad did a lot of work. He had run against Bolsonaro in 2018. He’s a major political figure, but Bolsonaro had Tarcisio de Freitas running in São Paulo. The anti-PT reaction in the rural part of the state was really strong, and Haddad was never able to overcome and really secure votes in rural, outside of metropolitan São Paulo.

Paul Jay

Is that a religious-driven vote?

Lorena Barberia

I think it’s not only religious. I think it’s also what we’re talking about. Voters are generally center-right, and there’s a perception, especially since Haddad ran when Lula was in jail and Lula wasn’t allowed to run in 2018. Haddad is seen as a very Left political force in the state, for reasons that are unfortunate political events. Simone Tebet decided to support Lula at the national level. At the state level, in São Paulo, she didn’t lend support to Haddad. Hadad didn’t have what Lula had at the national level. The moderate Right didn’t back the PT in the state of São Paulo, and so we see the results. Haddad got 46% of the vote– I think 46 or 44, I have to check.

The big difference that Haddad needed was he needed the center-right parties to support his candidacy, and he wasn’t able to secure that. As a result, he lost.

What are we stuck with, and what are people worried about right now in Brazil? Bolsonaro, we still don’t know what’s going to happen in the transition, how he is going to seed power, and how he’s going to acknowledge the election. Most of the people who are going to leave his administration are going to now probably be recruited to government posts in the richest state in the country. By no means do Bolsonaro and his coalition, these people who have been surprising political forces in Brazil for the last four years, they’re not gone. Just because they lost at the national level, we have to remember they barely lost. They won a lot of governorships, including the richest state in Brazil. They’re going to be running, and they’re going to be prominent inside state governments. They’re going to have very important posts, and they’re going to be very effective in working as an opposition to Lula at the national level and questioning what Lula is doing.

Paul Jay

It seems that the Brazilian elites, and in fact, the international elites, want a peaceful transition to Lula. Many of Bolsonaro’s allies have come out and said, “yes, Lula won the election.” I’m not sure if there are direct public quotes, but I saw some indirect quotes from the Brazilian military leadership who said, “yes, this is a legitimate election.”

The same thing happened in the United States when Trump started looking like– not looking– I think tried to organize a coup. This is not just January 6, as everybody knows that follows my stuff. This is in the weeks and even months before January 6. The preponderance of American elites did not want this disruption. They wanted a peaceful transition to Biden because anything else would be bad for business. That seems to be what’s going on in Brazil. Maybe Bolsonaro doesn’t like it, but can he still do something even if his allies are ready to move on?

Lorena Barberia

The military has yet to publicly make any statements. In a sense, they shouldn’t be making any statements. In the election results, we have electoral authorities, so the military shouldn’t be making any statements.

Bolsonaro had requested that the military undertake an assessment of electronic voting and make a report about the fairness of the electronic voting process. Part of what people are waiting for is the military has yet to give their assessment of Brazilian elections and how safe or how hackproof the voting process was.

I think that Bolsonaro can do a lot to make the transition very difficult. Obviously, he is afraid. He had put in as part of the protections he has– he had granted himself 100 years of privacy on access to many of the things that we’ve been demanding of accountability and transparency about his policies, even his vaccines. He has 100-year secrecy on his vaccine record. We still have yet to know if he took a COVID-19 vaccine. He advocated against giving a COVID-19 vaccine to his daughter. He criticized, he said, “you would turn into an alligator if you took a vaccine.” His sons were vaccinated. All of his ministers of health took the vaccine, but he has never publicly acknowledged if he was vaccinated. There’s a lot of secrecy around what he did, and he granted himself a lot of protections.

There are a lot of questions we have which we will only really learn about on January 1. It’s very unlikely, the way things are right now, that there’s going to be a transition, that his government is going to be meeting with Lula’s new appointees and planning the transition. The way it looks right now is that he’s going to be very much unwilling to negotiate and organize the transition. Instead, what he’s going to do is he’s going to resist up until the end. That’s one scenario.

In the second scenario, some people have hypothesized that Bolsonaro will leave early. He will leave the office early. Given the results, given how frustrated he is with the results, he might renounce.

In either of those scenarios, what’s important to understand is that for the next three months, until the new president takes office on January 1, there’s going to be a lot of volatility and uncertainty. It’s a moment where a lot of different programs are going to be interrupted because the government is not working normally. Importantly, something that we saw in the last weeks of the election, the role of the police has been very concerning. A lot of off-duty policemen have been involved in incidents that are really questionable about what happened.

Tarcisio de Freitas, for example, was in a neighborhood, visiting a neighborhood, a very poor neighborhood in São Paulo, when, for reasons that we still don’t understand, a man was killed. We still don’t know who killed that man, if it was somebody in Tarcisio de Freitas’s team or if it was the police who killed him, or if he was killed by someone else in the neighborhood. Tarcisio de Freitas asked the off-duty policeman in his team to delete the evidence on the cameras that were filming the incident in order to not allow an investigation.

We had a Congresswoman this weekend who was chasing a black journalist who was off-duty but who was arguing with her on the streets. She chased him with a gun in different streets in the city over a dispute about the elections. She wasn’t arrested, and she was with an off-duty policeman who actually fired shots against the journalist during the dispute.

Paul Jay

There have been reports of voter suppression. How significant was voter suppression?

Lorena Barberia

There are reports. We still don’t have enough data to know how big the voter suppression was and in how many different municipalities. It looks like it was mostly something that happened more in poor municipalities and rural municipalities, where it’s harder to see huge numbers of differences in voter suppression. We need to look at the data really carefully to understand how big.

The reports are that in at least 500 cities in Brazil, the Federal Road Police put up roadblocks to delay, intimidate, and ask for documents so that voters would have a harder time voting. There’s a lot of evidence that on-duty and off-duty police officers who, to a large extent, Bolsonaro supports. He’s very prominent in making an alliance and saying that he’s very supportive of the police, and the police are also supporting Bolsonaro.

I think that is really worrisome for the daily life of Brazilians right now. In poor neighborhoods in Brazil, people will be stopped and might even be killed without due process, without law enforcement, and without all of the guarantees that they should be offered if they’re under suspicion because of what’s going on right now politically. This vacuum and this uncertainty, but also this idea of going after your opponents and enforcing your own violence to quell dissent.

Paul Jay

So this may be far from over, especially if the military comes back with a question mark about the voting machines. In spite of what looks like the majority of Brazilian elites who may want a peaceful transition, given the balance of power in Congress and in the governorships, there’s not a hell of a lot Lula can do anyway that’s going to change things so radically. Bolsonaro does have the possibility of refusing to hand over, and it’s not a settled question.

Lorena Barberia

It’s not a settled question. The worst thing for what we’re talking about is the right, the right to be able to,– at this moment, there’s so much political polarization. We know that people who are poor and who are vulnerable are always going to be victims in those situations. Violence can be used against those people and is used a lot of times in situations that are race related.

There’s a lot of concern right now in Brazil in this atmosphere. The police feel empowered in order to– we have a couple of more months before Lula comes to power and before the transition. This is the moment where we can say in Brazil, what we say is, “this is the moment, our last ditch effort to get revenge.” That can happen in terms of fiscal spending, in terms of government programs, and lots of different things, but it also can happen in political violence.

I think we’re worried about that in Brazil at this moment because we have lots of evidence of political assassinations, of people who are killed in poor neighborhoods by police. There have been very serious, serious evidence of 20 to 30 people who lose their lives in one night during a police operation in Rio or in São Paulo. Those kinds of events, in this moment of uncertainty, have a higher likelihood of people making their decisions and not operating necessarily within strict control. I think we’re worried.

Paul Jay

The barrios in the big cities– for people who don’t know the word barrio, the urban poor. These go on for miles and miles with hundreds of thousands of people living in barrios or even millions. Did they invoke PT on the whole?

Lorena Barberia

I think, in general, São Paulo, yes. For example, I think São Paulo– really Lula owes his victory to two places: São Paulo, metropolitan São Paulo, and the northeast of Brazil. Those were the two areas that really were critical for his victory. Perplexingly, if we look at Rio de Janeiro, for example, we have to remember it is where Bolsonaro is based, and it’s where he has a strong political base. He has a lot of support in poor neighborhoods. One of the reasons that he has political support is because soccer players in Brazil, which everyone knows are very important for young people, and in the imaginations of Brazilians, especially as we’re on the eve of a World Cup, a lot of soccer players endorse Bolsonaro.

Paul Jay

Just finally, one final question, which maybe we can dig into more another time. Just quickly, to what extent did the American Christian Right support and get involved with the Brazilian Christian Right? In Europe, Steve Bannon has been running around trying to mobilize the far-right of Europe. If it wasn’t for the Russian invasion of Ukraine– Putin was one of their heroes, and Bolsonaro was also considered a hero of the American Christian Right. Have they been involved?

Lorena Barberia

It’s very difficult to know the extent to which they’ve been involved. I think Steve Bannon, we know, has a lot of contacts, he was consulted, and he worked a lot on advising Bolsonaro. As he was being detained in the last couple of months, it’s not clear how much, for example, personally, he was involved in following and consulting on the Brazilian election. I think that there’s a lot of evidence that we have, and it’s not only the American Christian Right but also the Right across Latin America that there’s a lot of liaisons that have been made.

Bolsonaro’s sons, for example, traveled to Argentina to meet with extreme right-wing candidates on the eve of the elections. This is a network, and this network reaches out, follows each other, and helps each other to mobilize and use social media. The different tactics are quite common in these groups. The danger, I think, is that it’s not only in the U.S. It’s in several countries in Latin America. We have similar tactics and networks that are active, and they work to support each other.

Paul Jay

Alright, that’s great. Thanks very much. In a few weeks, we’ll do it again. We’ll see whether there is a transition of power one way or the other. Thanks again.

Lorena Barberia

Okay, thank you.

Paul Jay

Thank you for joining us on Please don’t forget the donate button. Getting near the end of the year, if you’re considering whether to donate, we are a 501(c)(3) in the United States. We don’t have charitable status anywhere else, but we do in the U.S. If you like what we’re doing, we can’t keep doing it without your support. Thanks again for joining us on

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. paul m whalen

    What’s the mystery? 19th century Robber Baron Jay Gould put it best- I’ll hire one half of the working class to kill the other.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    Even years ago, the late Penny Lernoux was writing that U.S.-sponsored evangelicalism was causing problems in Latin America. Guatemala is a prime example. This interview with Barberia shows its uses in Brazil.

    Also, Paul Jay keeps using the word barrio, which isn’t Portuguese. It would be bairro (although a bairro is mainly just a neighborhood), or the word favela, which is less in use in Brazil now but means a deprived community or neighborhood. U.S. media have much homework to do on Brazil. (Which is a veritable black hole for them, with no information from Brazil allowed to escape.)

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Somehow when Barberia claims that Trump didn;t have evenagelicals follwoing him around the campaign trail, she completely forgets about Mike Pence.

      1. wilroncanada

        Most politicians in the “West” (I’ll even include Japan) have made a point of claiming their religious bona fides–even Clinton, even Trump–no matter how bacchanalian their actual lives have been. After all, in the fundamentalist.tradition, (including the Roman Catholic one) one can seemingly sin all one wants, as long as one “sincerely repents” regularly. You can be “saved” over and over again, especially if you are a public celebrity of any political kind. It’s part of the Hypocritic oath one takes as an evangelical.

  3. Redolent

    …donning the cross to engage the faithful, tried and tested.
    Forward to the 21st century…misinformation and executive privilege to conceal, question legitimacy, and appoint. Are there 3 or 4 bases in baseball?

  4. lyman alpha blob

    Lots of discussion about the “corruption scandal” that helped Bolsonaro in 2018, but in such a lengthy interview, I’m more than a little surprised that there was no mention about the blatant US DoJ involvement in those corruption charges that got Dilma Rousseff unjustly impeached and Lula jailed. For crying out loud –

    I hate to be flippant, but given the already proven track record, maybe it was so close because the US spooks tried to get Bolsonaro in again and just screwed it up this time. Sure wouldn’t be the first major FAIL for these clowns.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      lyman alpha blob: Are you saying that’s why Victoria “Cookies for Maidan” Nuland was hanging around in Brazil a few months back? Wouldn’t surprise me.

      That’s why I wrote the comment above. U.S. coverage of Brazil is either nonexistent or clueless.

      They’re all just beige Latinx….Excitable. Spanish-speaking. Rum drinkers.

      It’s only their natural resources that matter: Hey, Bolivia is flavor of the week with all of that lithium.

      Yet the U.S., in complete ignorance, still meddles, as in Lava Jato and the Roussef impeachment.

Comments are closed.