Birds of a feather? Running mate of presidential candidate, the “Brazilian Trump”, Jair Bolsonaro, declares Indians are “indolent” and blacks are “tricksters” that use “magic”
By Marques Travae
Birds of a feather. It’s been a little more than a week now since presidential hopeful Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) turned heads with some of the doozies he dropped in an 80-minute interview session with the Roda Viva program. Besides expounding on the idea that Africans are solely responsible for their enslavement and that Brazil owes the black population nothing even with the ongoing racial inequalities between blacks and whites in a Brazil that depended on slave labor for nearly 400 years, he was also exposed for making a number of false and half-true comments during the dialogue.
The congressman who has been promoted as the “Brazilian Trump” has offended millions of people with his controversial comments over the years leading many to label him racist, fascist and homophobic. Now the same politician that has divided Brazilians between those who love him and believe his extreme brand of politics is exactly what Brazil needs at this moment of political/economic uncertainty and others who despise him and want to separate themselves from anyone who supports him.
As the elections are less than two months away, the time came for the controversial figure to name a running mate for his run for the Palácio do Planalto. And as like-minded people tend to stick together, it should come as no surprise that his selection for Vice-President has made his debut as Bolsonaro’s partner by coming out the gate spitting racist rhetoric.
Out of the gate blazing, General Antônio Hamilton Mourão declared on August 6th that two ingredients within Brazil’s “cultural stew” are the “indolence” of the native Brazilian population and the “trickster” nature of black Africans.
Having a military background, like Bolsonaro, the military reserve made the statement at the Câmara de Indústria e Comércio de Caxias do Sul (Serra Gaúcha) (Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Caxias do Sul in Serra Gaúcha, Rio Grande do Sul). As can be expected, the declaration set the world of social media abuzz with repudiations of what many defined as open display of racist stereotyping.
Mourão went on to speak of the underdevelopment, social and political conflicts of Latin America, a region he referred to as a “condominium of peripheral countries”.
The intriguing thing about the general’s statements is that the declarations were brazenly made regardless of the social groups described in such disparaging terms. The general himself is of native Brazilian ancestry and city councilman Edson da Rosa (MDB), who is black, was among the dignitaries in attendance listening to his speech.
Knowing how his words could come across as offensive, he actually excused himself in the presence of Rosa regarding his comments on Africans. Below is an excerpt of his speech:
“And our Brazil? I have already mentioned our strategic nature. But you have a hard time turning that into power. There is still the famous ‘complexo de vira-lata’ (mutt complex) here in our country, unfortunately. We have to get over this. There is this political, economic and psychosocial crisis. We have a cultural heritage, an inheritance in which there are many people who enjoy the privilege. But there is a tendency for the comrade to want that privilege for it. It can’t be like this. This inheritance of privilege is an Iberian heritage. We have a certain inheritance of indolence, which comes from the indigenous culture. I’m an Indian. My father is an Amazonian. And the malandragem (trickery), Edson Rosa, nothing against, but the malandragem comes from the African. So, this is our cultural crucible. Unfortunately, we like martyrs, populist leaders and the macunaímas (see note one),” the general stated.
In his speech, Mourão also went on to discuss the ongoing problem with violence, public security and drug trafficking, with the ‘war on drugs’ having caused the deaths of untold number of innocent victims with no connection to the selling of illicit drugs, as well as Military Police soldiers. The general acknowledged that repression is not the solution to the problem but didn’t make a direct statement on the occupation of Rio’s favelas by Brazil’s military. Addressing the reality of organized crime controlling access to essentials such as water, electricity and the internet, Mourão expressed support for the construction of educational centers and the modernization of low-income communities.
But Brazilian citizens have other concerns over previous stances that Mourão has taken. For example, in a speech to freemasons in September of last year, Mourão spoke openly about the need for military intervention to address concerns over the country’s direction with an economy that tanked a few years ago after several years of growth, widespread violence causing insecurity in the streets and the impeachment that ended the second term of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rouseff in 2016. Other controversial stances of the general include his calling for the sale of Amazon territories and the privatization of everything. “Let’s free these things up,” he was quoted as saying. In that same speech in September of 2017, he mentioned the “triple cultural heritage” of “Iberian heritage”, “indigenous indolence” with the African contribution being “magic”. A cycle that needs to be overcome, according to the general.
The naming of Mourão as Bolsonaro’s running mate surely sounds alarms for many Brazilians as his expressing interest in privatization is came one month after current President Michel Temer announced plans to privatize 57 public companies and airport terminals under the guise of reducing the country’s fiscal deficit, which currently hovers at around $500 billion.
Although Mourão did criticize the current Temer administration, saying the president runs operations like a “business counter.” Interestingly, Mourão made his speech in front of freemasons back in September and it is a known fact that Temer is was a freemason. Hmmm…
And one final note on the “birds of a feather” theme, Mourão also shares with Bolsonaro admiration for former Army Coronel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who was recognized as a torturer and murderer during Brazil’s 21 years of Military Dictatorship (1964-1985). Records show that Ustra being involved in more than 40 murders and at least 500 cases of torture during this era that many see as Brazil’s darkest period. Bolsonaro honored the Army colonel during a vote on the impeachment of Rousseff back in April of 2016. In a similar fashion, Mourão sees Ustra as a “hero”.
Needless to say, organizations connected to the Movimento Negro weren’t pleased with the general’s statements. For the NGO Educafro, Mourão’s statement presents a “mistaken” view of the contributions of black people to the history of Brazil and our “an offense” to the community. In the opinion of Cármeno Dora de Freitas, a representative of the Racial Equality Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB-SP), the general’s comments are an apology to racism. For the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), Mourão’s declarations “explain deep ignorance and feeds the racism of Brazilian society against those populations historically wronged and massacred in our country.”
When told of reactions to his comments, Mourão replied that his words were “misinterpreted” and that in no moment did he speak of the African and Indigenous populations in a pejorative manner.
Typical of the manner many Brazilians respond to accusations of racism.
And these are two men that want to take the reigns of leadership of Brazil.
- Macunaíma, the title of the 1928 novel by Brazilian writer Mário de Andrade, generally is used to describe a lazy person