Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro is his country’s Donald Trump, with two important differences: 1) he’s an even more extreme hate-monger than his American counterpart; and 2) he has numerous sons who are carbon copies of him and have used their dynastic advantages to get elected to their own political offices throughout the country. As a result, the Bolsonaro family now spearheads a radical, nationwide, proto-fascist, alarmingly growing movement in Brazil grounded in evangelical fervor, über-nationalism, extreme law and order, hostility toward LGBTs, and a longing for restoration of the country’s prior military dictatorship.
So that’s the family patriarch. Another one of his many political sons, Flavio, is a member of the state legislature in Rio de Janeiro and currently running for mayor of the city. Like his other family members, Flavio is a member of the far religious right; his campaign is based on restoring evangelical values and imposing Trump-like themes of authoritarian strength and law and order. Unfortunately for Flavio, his campaign pose as Tough-Guy Strongman has run into several problems, including when he practically fainted from the pressure of the first live-televised debate, while a competing candidate from Brazil’s Communist Party, the physician Jandira Feghali, had to physically prop him up and offer him medical assistance (Flavio’s dad, Jair, refused her help on behalf of his boy).
Flavio’s clean, wholesome, law-and-order image suffered another blow today. The city this week has been engulfed by one of the most horrific crimes imaginable: A police colonel, Pedro Chavarry Duarte, was arrested on charges that he raped a 2-year-old girl, who was found naked and distressed in the backseat of his car. Media outlets subsequently discovered that the police colonel had a history of other suspected crimes involving children.
For obvious reasons, there is unrestrained revulsion and anger over this police official. That’s why many people were so startled when pictures emerged today of Flavio Bolsonaro posing for photos not once, but on two separate occasions with this accused pedophile. The first photo is from a 2012 newsletter of an association of retired police officials reporting on an event they attended together, while the second is of unknown origins:
Standing alone, this would likely not have been a fatal blow to Flavio’s candidacy: After all, politicians take photos with many people, including those they don’t know, and it’s unfair to suggest that one supports or approves of the conduct of someone else simply by virtue of appearing in a photo — or two — with them.
But Flavio ensured that this would become a big news story, and that many people would see these photos, when this afternoon he recorded a bizarre, rattled, unhinged, threatening 80-second video. In it, he called people sharing the pictures “scumbags”; repeatedly boasted that he wants to “chemically castrate” rapists and pedophiles; and, worst of all, threatened to sue anyone and everyone who publishes or shares the above-displayed photos of him standing next to Brazil’s most notorious and hated criminal suspect.
In general, it’s not only unethical and tyrannical — but usually quite counterproductive — to run around threatening everyone, including news organizations, with legal proceedings if they report on or publish plainly newsworthy information about politicians seeking substantial public power. Quite predictably, Flavio’s threats resulted in citizens defiantly publishing the photos over and over on social media. Issuing such threats is highly likely to result in far greater circulation and exposure of the embarrassing information that the politician is seeking, with thuggery, to suppress — particularly when it comes to news organizations devoted to defending the right of a free press in the face of ill-advised threats. This is likely the lesson Flavio will learn from today’s events.