How Jair Bolsonaro, a Brazilian, behaved at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II has been widely reported. The right-wing extremist took advantage of the British monarch’s funeral to campaign. From the balcony of the official residence of the Brazilian ambassador, on September 16, the current president spoke against abortion, drug decriminalization, and “gender ideology.” He also lied about his chances of winning the elections in the first round, on October 2, something highly unlikely given that polls show him as much as sixteen points behind the frontrunner, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro, who has little regard for the law or the truth has repeatedly used his position and official events to campaign. His abuse of power has been a topic in both the Brazilian and international press. On social media like Twitter, the left, center, and even non-Bolsonarist right have commented on the episode, exposing Bolsonaro’s disrespect at the Queen’s funeral. Once again, Bolsonaro managed to embarrass Brazil abroad; even worse, quite literally in front of the British monarchy.
It is true that campaigning at anyone’s funeral is disrespectful, although the greater act of disrespect was toward the Brazilian people, since the president violated the country’s election laws. Divulging how much Bolsonaro embarrasses Brazil on the international scene is important because it is a fact. What is striking, however, is how many of those on the urban left, mostly from Brazil’s central and southern regions, relate more to events in London than to what is taking place in the Amazon rainforest and other enclaves of nature.
The Queen and her funeral were talked about much more than the crimes committed against original peoples during the run-up to the elections. At least seven Indigenous individuals were murdered until September 24th in different parts of Brazil, raising suspicions that this wave of executions is a message from Bolsonaro’s base. Similarly, there has been a spike in arsons in the Amazon. Accounts have also surfaced from Yanomami women about the raping of thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls by miners, sometimes by several men at once. The Yanomami Indigenous Territory has been invaded by around twenty thousand of these illegal miners, who have driven out healthcare teams—resulting in the death of nine children from treatable diseases in less than three months. Two of them died from worms because there is a lack of basic medicines.
The massacre of original peoples, which has advanced throughout Bolsonaro’s term in office and intensified during the electoral period, gained much less attention on social media than the current president’s abuse of power in London or the death of Elizabeth II. This is a sad mark left by colonization, which endures even in those who consider themselves progressives but who actually feel closer to British subjects than to the Indigenous.
There is nothing more tied to the extermination of Indigenous peoples than the European monarchies, who presided over the invasion of what they called America and, in Brazil’s case, were responsible for decimating over 90 percent of the original population in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In countries like Brazil, this is the legacy we still must deal with, a legacy in the DNA of creatures like Bolsonaro, himself a product of the whitening policy enforced by Pedro II, Brazil’s last monarch. With all due respect to anyone who has passed away and to the loved ones mourning them, the funeral of Elizabeth II matters little to a Brazil where the Amazon burns, forest protectors are executed, Indigenous women suffer collective rape, and children die vomiting worms.
There was much criticism about bringing Pedro I’s heart—preserved in Portugal since his death in 1834—to Brazil for the bicentennial of the country’s Independence, on September 7. And this macabre importation deserved all the criticism it received. But how much does this kind of cult still beat in the hearts of the Brazilian people? As long as the colonial mentality remains instilled in the minds even of those who declare themselves progressives, Brazil will go many places, but none of them decent.
Translation: Thiago Leal