By Tom Phillips, The Guardian, November 2019
Voices from across Brazil’s political spectrum have condemned the son of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, after he suggested hardline dictatorship-era tactics might be needed to crush his father’s leftist foes.
Eduardo Bolsonaro made the incendiary remarks – which many observers suspect were a deliberate distraction from renewed media speculation over the family’s links to organized crime – during a softball YouTube interview broadcast on Thursday.
In the interview the 35-year-old congressman claimed – without offering evidence – that the recent wave of Latin American protests and the left’s return to power in Argentina were part of a Cuba-funded conspiracy to bring “revolution” to Latin America.
“If the left radicalizes to this extent [in Brazil] we will need to respond, and that response could come via a new AI-5,” said Bolsonaro, who is the regional representative of Steve Bannon’s far-right group “The Movement”.
That was a reference to one of the most traumatic events in recent Brazilian history – December 1968’s Institutional Act Number Five (AI-5) – when Brazil’s military rulers moved to extinguish growing political unrest by indefinitely outlawing freedom of expression and assembly and closing congress.
“The AI-5 was an instrument intended to intimidate people … It allowed the dictatorship to repress all opposition and dissent,” the historians Lilia Schwarz and Heloisa M Starling wrote in their recent “biography” of Brazil.
As a new era of suppression began and dissidents fled into exile, one newspaper tried to skirt the censors with a now famous front page weather forecast that announced: “Stormy weather. Suffocating temperature. Air unbreathable. The country is being swept by strong winds.”
“AI-5 was such a symbolic moment because it signalled the intensification of the military movement’s authoritarianism,” Schwarz said.
In a country still grappling with the legacy of those grim days of authoritarian rule, Bolsonaro’s provocation – for which he later offered a partial apology – sparked outrage, from left to right.
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