Explaining Brazil #206: Fears of political violence grow

The murder of a Workers' Party official spells a bad omen for Brazil's upcoming general election

Data suggests that instances of political violence are likely to become more common as the country approaches the October election. That was the case in the leadup to the 2020 municipal vote and appears to be happening again now. 

This past weekend, Marcelo Arruda, a local treasurer of the Workers’ Party in Foz do Iguaçu, celebrated his 50th birthday with a Lula-themed party.

To the horror of Marcelo’s friends and family, the event was crashed by Jorge Guaranho, a supporter of incumbent far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Yelling pro-Bolsonaro slogans, he stormed the party venue and shot Arruda dead.

Political observers worry that this latest example of violence is little more than a prelude to what could be the most vicious election in Brazil’s democratic history.

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  • Andre Pagliarini is an assistant professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Before that, he taught Latin American history at Dartmouth, Wellesley, and Brown, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2018. He is currently preparing a book manuscript on the politics of nationalism in 20th-century Brazil.

Background reading:

  • Last week, a pro-Bolsonaro supporter detonated a homemade fecal bomb during a rally led by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
  • In democratic times, political violence was mostly confined to local races which receive little media attention. But that changed in the 2018 presidential election, when shots were fired against a campsite where Lula was staying and Jair Bolsonaro nearly died after being stabbed during a rally.
  • Mr. Bolsonaro’s 2018 stabbing has led to the creation of myriad conspiracy theories — from both the left and right.
  • The rise of political violence in Brazil is more worrisome with the increase in gun license issuance in recent years.

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