Since President Bolsonaro came on the scene as a presidential candidate in 2018, Brazil’s far-right has revived a 21st century Red Scare. Though Brazil had been ruled by a reformist center-left Workers’ Party for over a decade, the movement that propelled Mr. Bolsonaro to the presidency has been able to plant the fallacy in the mind of some conservatives that the country was emerging from a “communist dictatorship.”
Fueled by fake news and conspiracy theory, the far-right in Brazil has adopted a strategy of branding everyone even slightly to their left as a card-carrying communist. Most recently, São Paulo Governor João Doria — a textbook right-wing conservative — has been compared to the Bolsheviks. Why? It is simply because he is in favor of social isolation measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, against the stance adopted by President Bolsonaro.
Last week, supporters of the president took to São Paulo’s iconic Paulista Avenue for a quarantine-breaching march to mock the fatal victims of Covid-19. One group of pandemic deniers paraded with a fake casket and shouted insults at João Doria, even referring to him as a Nazi leader — another group which Brazil’s far-right claims was, in fact, left-wing.
Even authorities seem to be surfing this new wave and disrespecting the people killed by the novel coronavirus. Gilson Machado, chair of Brazil’s tourism board Embratur, shared a video on social media photoshopping President Jair Bolsonaro’s head onto a popular meme of dancing Ghanaian pallbearers.
In both cases, Mr. Bolsonaro’s friends used the meme du jour to essentially mock the dead. As Brazil’s death toll continues to rise, supporters of the president keep smiling, as if they themselves were immune to the virus.