Keeping Up with the Bolsonaros

. Feb 25, 2019
bolsonaro and his sons From left to right: Eduardo, Carlos, Jair, and Flávio

Last year, Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro as its head of state. With a platform tough on crime, and Donald Trump-esque promises to drain the swamp of Brazilian politics, he received over 57 million votes. However, after less than two months in office, it is clear that the country did not just elect Jair Bolsonaro, it elected the entire Bolsonaro family.

The president’s three oldest sons, all elected officials at different levels of government, have taken on hugely influential roles within the administration. None are actual members of the cabinet, though they appear to have more power than many of the president’s ministers.

The central role of the “Bolso-kids” has bothered the Brazilian political class. Even Jair Bolsonaro’s allies have called upon him to keep his boys in check, as the early crises of the government have predominantly revolved around the president’s sons.

</span></p> <div id="attachment_14309" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-14309" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-14309" src="" alt="bolsonaro and his sons" width="1024" height="576" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-14309" class="wp-caption-text">From left to right: Eduardo, Renan, Jair, Carlos, and Flávio</p></div> <h2>Carlos, The Pitbull</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s three sons from his first marriage, 36-year-old Carlos is the middle child. And of the trio, he is by far the closest to his father. Dubbed the president&#8217;s &#8220;02&#8221; (zero-two, due to their proximity and the fact Carlos is his second child), Carlos Bolsonaro was given the rare honor of sitting in the backseat of the open-top state car during his father&#8217;s </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">inauguration</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Rumor has it that Carlos had had a </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">bad dream the night before</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, so was placated with a spot in the ceremony.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carlos was the first of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s offspring to go into politics, but it wasn&#8217;t exactly his choice. The president had a severe falling out with his ex-wife (and Carlos&#8217; mother) Rogéria Nantes Bolsonaro. As an act of revenge, he orchestrated the candidacy of a 17-year-old Carlos Bolsonaro to run against his own mother for a seat as a Rio de Janeiro city councilor. As Carlos was a high-school student at the time and still a minor, in order to run for office, Jair Bolsonaro had to emancipate his own son, which he did.</span></p> <div id="attachment_14312" style="width: 1010px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-14312" loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-14312" src="" alt="carlos bolsonaro" width="1000" height="541" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><p id="caption-attachment-14312" class="wp-caption-text">Carlos Bolsonaro</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the campaign, Ms. Nantes Bolsonaro accused her ex-husband of ordering the physical assault of one of her campaigners, a former family friend of the couple. By the end of this reverse Oedipal drama, schoolboy Carlos Bolsonaro became an elected official, while his mother was left unemployed.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Carlos Bolsonaro&#8217;s 19 years of public office, the violence, scheming and family ties of his first foray into politics have been repeated ad infinitum. Jair Bolsonaro refers to Carlos as his &#8220;pitbull,&#8221; for the aggression and tenacity he displays in backing his father&#8217;s cause. This aggression has won him many enemies in and around politics.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the 2018 campaign, </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">former Secretary-General Gustavo Bebianno</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> claimed that one of their party&#8217;s publicists was verbally attacked and threatened by Carlos Bolsonaro to such an extent that the publicist&#8217;s son was traumatized and attempted suicide.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bebianno was the subject of the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">most recent scandal involving Carlos Bolsonaro</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, one which showed precisely how much power the president&#8217;s middle child holds in government.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Outside his nuclear family, Gustavo Bebianno was Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s closest advisor during his ascendancy to the president&#8217;s office. He coordinated the electoral campaign and negotiated Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s (who he affectionately called &#8220;Captain&#8221;) entry into the Social Liberal Party (PSL), which is currently home to the entire Bolsonaro clan.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, Carlos was reportedly upset with the access granted to Mr. Bebianno, and the two had a falling out. The rift was exacerbated after Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s election victory, as Mr. Bebianno persuaded the president not to put Carlos (whom his father calls a &#8220;social media whiz&#8221;) in charge of the government&#8217;s communication department. Though he didn&#8217;t officially get the job, Carlos still manages his father&#8217;s social media accounts, often to devastating effect, as we have seen recently.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this month, it was revealed that Gustavo Bebianno had overseen a dummy candidate scheme within the PSL, assigning huge amounts of campaign funds to practically non-existent candidates and funneling this money through to companies connected to party leaders. In the spotlight, Mr. Bebianno played down the imminent crisis, saying he had spoken with the president &#8220;three times,&#8221; and that the situation had been smoothed over.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Carlos Bolsonaro, seeing an opportunity to lash out at an adversary, exclaimed on Twitter that the Secretary-General was lying, and he did not speak to the president. Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s account (which Carlos reportedly has control over) retweeted this attack, throwing the proverbial excrement into the fan.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bebianno was then fired, and released a series of WhatsApp Messenger audio files showing that he had in fact spoken to the president on the day in question, at least three times. He later claimed that the president was being &#8220;poisoned&#8221; by Carlos Bolsonaro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For such a young politician, Carlos Bolsonaro has an array of nicknames—no doubt due to his intense personality, drawing reactions from everyone who comes up against him. Besides &#8220;Pitbull&#8221; and &#8220;02,&#8221; the LGBT community gave him the &#8220;affectionate&#8221; nickname of &#8220;Carluxo&#8221; after rumors circled about his sexuality. Within the PSL, he is known as &#8220;Tonho da Lua,&#8221; a famous soap opera character in the molds of the aggressive and mentally challenged Lenny from </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Of Mice and Men</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By far the most creative moniker comes from the municipal legislature in Rio de Janeiro, where Carlos is still—despite his frequent visits to Brasilia—a city councilor. There he is known as &#8220;Hello Kitty,&#8221; the Japanese cartoon cat without a mouth, due to his rare contributions in legislative sessions.</span></p> <h2>Flávio, The Muscle</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Flávio Bolsonaro is the president&#8217;s oldest son, and for the longest time he was treated as the most moderate of the Bolsonaro clan, largely due to his more reserved persona and aversion to spouting the inflammatory &#8220;Bolsonarisms&#8221; for which his siblings and father are famous.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Of the three sons, he holds the highest public office, having won a seat in the Senate in last year&#8217;s general elections, representing Rio de Janeiro. Boasting a large constituency in the state, his electoral capital is not limited to his father&#8217;s popularity and he is very well-connected in the Rio political stage.</span></p> <div id="attachment_14313" style="width: 660px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-14313" loading="lazy" class="size-full wp-image-14313" src="" alt="flavio bolsonaro" width="650" height="360" srcset=" 650w, 300w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 650px) 100vw, 650px" /><p id="caption-attachment-14313" class="wp-caption-text">Senator Flávio Bolsonaro</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First elected as a state representative, he served four terms in the Rio de Janeiro legislature. His first push for an executive role came in 2016, when he launched an unsuccessful bid for city mayor. He gained notoriety for his participation in one of the campaign&#8217;s televised debates, during which he fainted live on air and had to be taken to the hospital.</span></p> <p><iframe title="Filho de Bolsonaro passa mal em debate e é segurado por Jandira Feghali" width="1200" height="675" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Unlike his brothers, Flávio Bolsonaro has never sought broad exposure. He shares the same far-right beliefs as the rest of the Bolsonaro clan, but his laundry list of emphatic public declarations is much shorter than that of the rest of his family. However, exposure found Flávio unwittingly, as he was the center of the very first crisis of his father&#8217;s government.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A report from the Brazilian money laundering enforcement council (COAF) identified a series of </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">suspicious transactions</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the banking records of Fabrício Queiroz—Flávio&#8217;s former advisor and driver during his tenure as a state representative. The findings pointed towards a corruption scheme within Flávio Bolsonaro&#8217;s office, wherein his employees paid Mr. Bolsonaro a portion of their salaries.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The situation already looked bad, especially considering Flávio&#8217;s father was elected president on an anti-corruption ticket, but further revelations made things even worse, giving us a rare look at the &#8220;real&#8221; Flávio Bolsonaro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As part of the investigations into the murder of Rio Councillor Marielle Franco in March 2018, Rio de Janeiro police arrested the heads of the city&#8217;s most established urban militia, suspected of also forming part of the death squad that assassinated Ms. Franco. As it turned out, Flávio Bolsonaro employed the mother and wife of one of the suspects, shedding light on a </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">connection between the president&#8217;s oldest son and Rio de Janeiro&#8217;s most notorious and violent militia</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <h2>Eduardo, The Face</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The youngest of the three, Eduardo Bolsonaro represents his father&#8217;s popular side. Tall, athletic, and an avid surfer, Eduardo comes across as the most media-friendly face of the Bolsonaro clan, despite his violent and reactionary views. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His popularity is plain to see, as in the 2018 elections he was the best-voted federal representative in Brazilian history, winning over 1.8 million votes in São Paulo, his adopted home and constituency.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previously the best-known Bolsonaro son—repeating his father&#8217;s discourse to the letter while inhabiting the role of the &#8220;far-right hunk&#8221;—Eduardo has stepped back from the spotlight slightly to work on his new passion: establishing </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">relations between Brazil and the U.S.</span></a></p> <div id="attachment_14314" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-14314" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-14314" src="" alt="eduardo bolsonaro trump" width="1024" height="683" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1140w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-14314" class="wp-caption-text">Eduardo Bolsonaro</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Eduardo is somewhat of a Yankophile, having gone on an exchange trip to Maine and Colorado in the early 2000s. He posted a video on social media last year outside a Popeye&#8217;s fast food restaurant, in which he raved about the U.S. job market and inexplicably talked highly of the fact that many of his colleagues &#8220;had the opportunity&#8221; to work three jobs just to send money back to their families in Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Though, like his brothers, he has no official role within the government, he accompanied his father to the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">World Economic Forum in Davos</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. He has also met several times with Donald Trump&#8217;s former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Mr. Bannon has called Eduardo an &#8220;extraordinary&#8221; person and selected him as the Latin American spokesperson of his far-right populist group The Movement.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When he was in the domestic spotlight, however, Eduardo Bolsonaro committed his fair share of gaffes. In July 2018, during a lecture to federal police cadets in the southern state of Paraná, Eduardo was recorded in a declaration about closing the Supreme Court. He claimed that it would only take &#8220;a soldier and a corporal&#8221; to shut down the country&#8217;s highest court—a statement for which he was widely reprimanded.

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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