The far-right plan “to Ukraine” Brazil

. May 07, 2020
ukraine plan for brazil

While Brazil marches toward becoming the world’s next Covid-19 epicenter, President Jair Bolsonaro’s attention is focused elsewhere. He is digging deeper into his trenches, trying to block a potential impeachment process or avoid becoming a lame-duck president with two and a half years left in his term. All the while, despite constant flip-flopping — such as bashing traditional political parties, then handing over jobs in his administration in exchange for their support — his core group of militants are ready to fight tooth-and-nail for Mr. Bolsonaro. Quite literally, as a matter of fact. One faction of Bolsonaro-supporting politicians and digital influencers have decided to galvanize their far-right followers, urging them “to Ukraine” Brazil.

“To Ukraine” (or ucranizar) Brazil, in this sense, is a reference to the Euromaidan protests in 2013. When then-President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal to integrate the country with the European Union, mass protests toppled the government and ran him out of the country. As demonstrations grew in size and violence, far-right activists created brutal “trash bucket challenges,” in which they filmed themselves throwing politicians into dumpsters. Anti-Semite and fascist ultranationalist movements emerged in Ukraine in the crisis’ aftermath.

That’s what a sizable group of Bolsonaro loyalists want for Brazil.

</p> <p>One of these supporters is member of Congress Daniel Silveira. He recently urged his followers &#8220;to Ukraine Brazil&#8221; in a recent Twitter post. &#8220;Those who know what happened there will understand,&#8221; he wrote. A former military police officer, Mr. Silveira entered the public spotlight — and the House of Representatives —&nbsp;after <a href=",candidatos-do-psl-destroem-placa-com-homenagem-a-marielle-franco,70002531740">trashing a road sign</a> in homage of assassinated left-wing Rio de Janeiro councilor Marielle Franco during a campaign rally.</p> <p>However, the biggest cheerleader for a Brazilian Euromaidan is far-right activist Sara Fernanda Giromini, who goes by the nom de guerre &#8220;Sara Winter,&#8221; a reference to British Nazi supporter and member of the British Union of Fascists, Sarah Winter.</p> <p>Ms. Winter denies the link, calling it an &#8220;unfortunate coincidence.&#8221; However, in an <a href="">interview</a> to website Opera Mundi in 2012, one of her former activist colleagues said Ms. Winter told her &#8220;she admires Hitler as a person, as he was a good husband and loved animals, but that she didn&#8217;t admire the &#8216;public&#8217; Hitler.&#8221;</p> <p>When a journalist questioned the Nazi connotations of her pseudonym via Twitter, she <a href="">replied</a>: &#8220;Nazi is your mother&#8217;s asshole.&#8221;</p> <h2>The woman who wants <em>&#8220;to Ukraine&#8221;</em> Brazil</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="810" height="450" src="" alt="Sara Winter far-right brazil" class="wp-image-38453" srcset=" 810w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 810px) 100vw, 810px" /><figcaption>Sara Winter during a radio interview. She partially covered her Iron Cross tattoo with a floral design. Photo: JPFM</figcaption></figure> <p>Sara Winter is 27 years old and defines herself as a right-wing Catholic ex-feminist. Indeed, she first came to the attention of the public when, at 19 years old, she founded the Brazilian chapter of Ukrainian feminist activism group Femen, a desire which she said stemmed from a family history of abuse and a ten-month stint as a sex worker.</p> <p>During her time in Femen BR, she even staged a topless protest against Jair Bolsonaro, posing alongside an effigy of the then-member of Congress, before &#8220;<a href="">castrating</a>&#8221; the dummy in front of press cameras.</p> <p>Less than a year later, however, Femen BR was disrupted after the group&#8217;s Ukrainian leaders decided to shut it down —&nbsp;with founder Anna Hutsol making threats to reveal &#8220;Sara Winter&#8217;s true reasons&#8221; for joining the movement. Ms. Winter&#8217;s former number two in Brazil, Bruna Themis, accused her ex-colleague of authoritarianism and sympathy for Nazism. In her defense, the now-disgraced leader said Femen was a sham, &#8220;a company instead of a legitimate social movement.&#8221;</p> <p>In her youth, however, Ms. Winter frequented neo-Nazi groups in São Paulo, and even tattooed an Iron Cross on her chest — which she later covered with a floral design. While she denies being a nao-Nazi herself, she has admitted to having contact with such groups online, even sympathizing with some of their ideas. She is also a self-declared admirer of Plínio Salgado, founder of Brazil&#8217;s <a href="">overtly fascist Integralist movement</a>.</p> <h2>From Femen to the far-right</h2> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="655" src="" alt="Sara Winter and Jair Bolsonaro. &quot;Army to exterminate the left.&quot;" class="wp-image-38454" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Sara Winter and Jair Bolsonaro. &#8220;Army to exterminate the left.&#8221; Photo: Instagram</figcaption></figure> <p>In 2013, Ms. Winter founded BastardXs, her own feminist group which accepted male members. But in the following year, she had already abandoned feminism altogether, publishing videos on her YouTube channel asking Christians for forgiveness. That same year, she released her book <em>&#8220;Vadia não! Sete vezes que fui traída pelo feminismo&#8221;</em> (&#8220;Not a whore! Seven times I was betrayed by feminism).&nbsp;</p> <p>After becoming a mother, Ms. Winter also changed her stance on abortions — condemning the practice, but admitting that she terminated her first pregnancy — and started attending Latin masses in Latin, alongside the most traditional segments of the Catholic Church. In 2015, she turned to astrologist-turned-philosopher Olavo de Carvalho — the far-right ideological guru of the Bolsonaro movement — and ran a failed campaign for Congress in 2018.</p> <p>However, Ms. Winter did manage to get a senior position in the Human Rights Ministry, which she no longer holds. In no time, she began getting closer to President Jair Bolsonaro himself, appearing in numerous photographs alongside the head of state at public events.</p> <p>With almost 400,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook —&nbsp;to go along with her 206,000 subscribers on YouTube — Ms. Winter is trying to recruit Brazilians to join her new cause: &#8220;Brazil&#8217;s 300,&#8221;&nbsp;a reference to the Battle of Thermopylae between Sparta and Persia. With clear messages against the Supreme Court and Congress, the group claims to be forming &#8220;an army that will exterminate the left and corruption.&#8221;</p> <p>The group wants to set up camp outside of Congress and pressure House Speaker Rodrigo Maia to resign. Organizers are trying to enlist retired military officers, as well as the wives of rank-and-file active troops — the president&#8217;s most loyal supporters in the barracks. Speaking to one <a href="">far-right website</a>, Ms. Winter said people &#8220;will have to start fearing us.&#8221;</p> <p>The motive seems to be clear if we listen to the words of disgraced former Congressman Roberto Jefferson — who has now joined forces with Jair Bolsonaro — in a recent interview:</p> <p>&#8220;Who is [Mr.] Bolsonaro&#8217;s base? Officers from the Civil Police, Military Police, firefighters, road patrols, active and retired military men. A strong base, willing to fight. A base of lions. If they must defend the leader of the pack, they will.&#8221;</p> <p>As economic and political conditions in Brazil continue to deteriorate, the closing line sounds less like a promise, and more like a threat.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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