The far-right candidate of the Brazilian election, Jair Bolsonaro vowed to purge the country of his left-wing political opponents during a video address Sunday.
“Either they go overseas, or they go to jail,” Bolsonaro told thousands of cheering supporters who had packed Avenida Paulista, one of Sao Paulo’s main arteries, for one of his final campaign acts before the second round of Brazil elections on Oct. 28. “These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a clean-up, the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history,” Bolsonaro declared.
He also mentioned that “crooks” from Brazil’s landless workers' movement (MST) would be designated as terrorists while the former president Lula da Silva would be left “to rot in jail.” Other politicians from the Workers' Party (PT), including his opponent candidate Fernando Haddad, will face the same fate, according to Bolsonaro.
“We are the majority. We are the true Brazil. Together with this Brazilian people, we will build a new nation,” Bolsonaro declared, later adding: “We are the voice of freedom. … We do not want socialism.”
Bolsonaro’s supporters cheered him with chants of “Brazil, Brazil, Brazil, Brazil,” and with the candidate’s nickname, “Legend, Legend, Legend, Legend.”
Progressive Brazilians and leftist activists were taken aback by his hateful rhetoric. “Brasil, ame-o ou deixe-o,” tweeted Cynara Menezes, a Brazilian journalist referring to the infamous slogan of its 1964-85 dictatorship. “Brazil, love it or leave it.”
Guilherme Boulos, a young leftist politician, also known as Lula’s heir, described Bolsonaro’s speech as “typical of an authoritarian and dictatorial mind”.
“We will push on with the democratic resistance,” Boulos vowed.
Haddad tweeted, “Bolsonaro has threatened the survival of his opponents. … We must defend the democratic rule-of-law. How can people feel safe if he threatens those who think differently from him?”
Lilia Schwarcz, a Brazilian historian, said, “The way he spoke … he is asking people to be violent — this is not democracy. He speaks like a very authoritarian leader – it reminds us of other regimes. … We know this film. We know this kind of movie. It is a very authoritarian one.”
Jose Roberto de Toledo, a political journalist from the magazine Piaui, said, “It’s an escalation. As Mussolini would say: ‘If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, people don’t notice.’”