When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Capitol Riot, Brazil Style? The Specter Of Violence If Bolsonaro Loses The Presidency

Brazilian politics has a long history tainted with violence. As President Jair Bolsonaro threatens to not accept the results if he loses his reelection bid Sunday, the country could explode in ways similar to, or even worse, than the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol after Donald Trump refused to accept his defeat.

Lula and Bolsonaro banners

Supporters of Brazil presidential candidates Bolsonaro and Lula cross the streets of Brasilia with banners ahead of the first round of the elections on Oct. 2.

Angela Alonso


SÂO PAULO — Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro delivered a message to his nation this year on the anniversary of its independence day, September 7. He recalled what he saw as the nation’s good times, and bad, and declared: “Now, 2022, history may repeat itself. Good has always triumphed over evil. We are here because we believe in our people and our people believe in God.”

It was a moment that’s typical of how this president seeks to challenge the democratic rules. Bolsonaro has been seen as part of a new populist global wave. Ahead of Sunday's first round of voting, the sitting president is trailing in the polls, and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could even tally more than 50% to win the race outright and avoid an Oct. 30 runoff. Bolsonaro has said he might not accept the results of the race, which could spark violence from his supporters.

However, Brazil has a tradition of political violence. There is a national myth that the political elite prefer negotiation and avoid armed conflicts. Facts do not support the myth. If it did all major political change would have been peaceful: there would have been no independence war in 1822, no civil war in 1889 (when the republic replaced the monarchy) and, even the military coup, in 1964, would have been bloodless.

In recent decades, scholars have dug up extensive evidence of political violence throughout Brazilian history. Dispute among political elites was fierce during the monarchy, and the republic began with a civil-military coup.

Role of dictatorship

Between this coup and the 1964 military one, the country faced 20 major violent political conflicts. The national state and the army took a central part in those conflicts and in all of them lethal violence was employed. Political violence also characterized the dictatorship, which ran from 1964 to 1985.

When democracy returned, the 1988 constitution guaranteed civil, political, and social rights, as well as institutions to manage political conflicts. Many then assumed the age of lethal conflict was over and Brazil had begun an irreversible peaceful age. However, political violence was just under control. It had not gone away.

Democratic institutions soon proved incapable of punishing those responsible for political violence during the dictatorship. Governments of presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from 1995 to 2002, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2003 to 2010, tried to move in this direction and failed.

The former created the political missing and deaths commission and the amnesty commission, while the latter delivered the Right to Memory and Truth report and proposed a national truth commission.

All those moves faced setbacks, and then military reactions, as set out for example in the widely read book The Suffocated Truth, The Story the Left Does Not Want Brazil to Know, by Brilhante Ustra, a key figure in the dictatorship’s repression scheme.

Televised debate Brazil

Presidential candidates Lula, Simone Tebet and Jair Bolsonaro take part in a televised debate in São Paulo on Sept. 28, 2022.

Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA

Political violence as part of public debate

Dilma Rousseff, who served as president from 2011 to 2016, went further than her predecessors. In her inauguration speech in 2011, the former guerrilla expressed sorrow for her fellow fighters who had been killed during the military dictatorship.

“I faced the most extreme adversity inflicted on all of us that dared to fight the dictatorship,” she said. “I regret nothing. I do not harbour resentment or hold a grudge. Many of my generation … cannot share the joy of this moment. I share with them the victory and pay them my respects.” Rousseff then created a truth commission in 2012.

The years of military rule became a hot national issue as a result of the commission. Newspapers and social media discussed whether the military regime started as a “coup” or a “revolution” and whether the communist guerrilla movement was more or less brutal than the military repression.

Unlike Trump, Bolsonaro counts on support inside the army

A member of the supreme court even decided to take a side. In 2012, while talking about the military regime, Marco Aurelio Mello sought to smooth matters over, saying of the regime: “I don’t mean dictatorship, dictatorship is something else.”

During Lula and Rousseff’s years in power, the role of political violence became part of public debate, partly because of the 2005 referendum proposing a ban on firearms and ammunition. Lula´s government lost (36%) to the pro-gun’s coalition (63.9%), led by Bolsonaro and others.

Unlike Trump, Bolsonaro has military backing

Bolsonaro’s election was the beginning of an era when political violence became usual in different ways. The president often uses violent terminology in speeches referencing minorities, journalists, adversaries and democratic institutions, railing against women, LGBTQ+ people and racial rights.

Although 36% of Brazilians intend to vote to re-elect the president, some are more enthusiastic than others. His strongest supporters are a group that haven’t put aside the country’s interpersonal violence rooted in centuries of slavery. They are mainly white middle-aged men, and 47% of them come from the middle and upper class. A large share of the social elite endorses Bolsonaro.

The president also counts on what Charles Tilly called “experts in violence” in The Politics of Collective Violence, that is groups prone to act violently, such as policemen and shooting club members. The current administration tripled the number of shooters’ licenses

Bolsonaro fears losing the upcoming election as former U.S. president Donald Trump lost in 2020, and has many armed supporters who may be ready to create a Brazilian version of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Unlike Trump, he counts on support inside the army, although how large this support is nobody knows.

The president speaks for the Brazilians who are proud of carrying a gun. They will not magically disappear if their leader fails to be re-elected.The Conversation

Angela Alonso, Professor of Sociology, Universidade de São Paulo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest