200 years of Brazilian independence, with little to celebrate

This September 7, Brazilians celebrated the bicentennial of the country’s independence from Portugal. However, instead of commemorating the landmark date, Brazil was instead privy to a large-scale campaign event from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro — who hijacked official parades using public money in an attempt to bolster his ailing polling numbers, with an election less than a month away.

Since taking office, Mr. Bolsonaro has sought to take ownership of all Brazil’s national symbols, including the flag, anthem, and even the national football team jersey. A landmark patriotic holiday, then, would be no different.

The only Brazilians in attendance at the September 7 rallies were supporters of the current president, who largely ignored the significance of the date and instead repeated his well-worn campaign slogans to the tens of thousands in the crowd in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro.

Indeed, anti-democratic slogans were also commonplace, with calls to impeach Supreme Court justices and launch a military intervention. The president, in turn, was more veiled in his declarations, saying that his supporters “know what [they] have to do” during the election — read: disrupt the voting process, and not accept a Lula victory. 

However, in what was perhaps planned by Mr. Bolsonaro himself, the major headline from his Independence Day speech in Brasília came at the beginning of his address. On the day Brazil emancipated itself from Portugal 200 years ago, he opened his speech talking about his wife, Michelle Bolsonaro, and chanting that he was “imbrochavel” — loosely translated as “never limp.” And yes, he was referring to his ability to maintain an erection. Happy birthday, Brazilian independence.

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