Without the imaginary “threat” of communism, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is unlikely ever to have become president. A large part of the far-right former Army captain’s campaign platform was based on attacking the left, proclaiming himself as the savior of Brazil’s family, religious and conservative values — and calling everyone less radical than he “communists.” Once in office, he continuously claimed — often on international stages — that he had saved Brazil from the brink of socialism, an outlandish and inaccurate claim.
Now, more than three years into his term, a large slice of the people who elected Mr. Bolsonaro in 2018 are well aware that his promises of “erasing communism” are far less important to them than solving the country’s urgent needs, such as inflation, unemployment, hunger, climate disasters, and education.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s core supporters, however, are still committed to their imagined crusade against communism in Brazil. But they were left speechless this week after their president’s visit to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin. During a flying visit to Moscow, Mr. Bolsonaro took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin. Perhaps unknown to Brazil’s president, the monument honors all the fallen soldiers in World War II, who fought Nazi Germany in the name of Marxist-Leninist socialism.
Almost immediately after, “#BolsonaroCommunist” shot to the top of Twitter’s trending topics.
Once the cognitive dissonance subsided, however, the hardcore Bolsonaristas pushed another fanciful narrative on social media. With the president’s visit to Moscow coinciding with the Russia-Ukraine border tension, Mr. Bolsonaro’s biggest backers claimed that the Brazilian head of state convinced Vladimir Putin to pull out his troops and “avoid World War III” — clearly ignoring the fact that Russian tanks began returning to their bases before Mr. Bolsonaro had even landed in the country.