Brazilian president’s son suggests using dictatorship-era tactics on leftist foes

Eduardo Bolsonaros incendiary remarks prompted many across the political spectrum to condemn him

Voices from across Brazils 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 fathers leftist foes.

Eduardo Bolsonaro made the incendiary remarks which many observers suspect were a deliberate distraction from renewed media speculation over the familys 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 lefts 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 Bannons far-right group The Movement.

Quick guide

Brazil’s dictatorship

How did it began?

Brazils leftist president, Joo Goulart, was toppled in a coup in April 1964. General Humberto Castelo Branco became leader, political parties were banned, and the country was plunged into 21 years of military rule.

The repression intensified under Castelo Brancos hard-line successor, Artur da Costa e Silva, who took power in 1967. He was responsible for a notorious decree called AI-5 that gave him wide ranging dictatorial powers and kicked off the so-called anos de chumbo (years of lead), a bleak period of tyranny and violence which would last until 1974.

What happened during the dictatorship?

Supporters of Brazils 1964-1985 military regime – including Jair Bolsonaro – credit it with bringing security and stability to the South American country and masterminding a decade-long economic miracle.

It also pushed ahead with several pharaonic infrastructure projects including the still unfinished Trans-Amazonian highway and the 8-mile bridge across Rios Guanabara bay.

But the regime, while less notoriously violent than those in Argentina and Chile, was also responsible for murdering or killing hundreds of its opponents and imprisoning thousands more. Among those jailed and tortured were Brazils first female president, Dilma Rousseff, then a left-wing rebel.

It was also a period of severe censorship. Some of Brazils best-loved musicians – including Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso – went into exile in Europe, writing songs about their enforced departures.

How did it end?

Political exiles began returning to Brazil in 1979 after an amnesty law was passed that began to pave the way for the return of democracy.

But the pro-democracy Diretas J (Direct elections now!) movement only hit its stride in 1984 with a series of vast and historic street rallies in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, So Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

Civilian rule returned the following year and a new constitution was introduced in 1988. The following year Brazil held its first direct presidential election in nearly three decades.

That was a reference to one of the most traumatic events in recent Brazilian history December 1968s Institutional Act Number Five (AI-5) – when Brazils 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 movements authoritarianism, Schwarz said.

In a country still grappling with the legacy of those grim days of authoritarian rule, Bolsonaros provocation for which he later offered a partial apology sparked outrage, from left to right.

Declarations such as those of Eduardo Bolsonaro are repugnant, the speaker of Brazils lower house, Rodrigo Maia, tweeted.

The AI-5 suspended rights and introduced censorship: an authoritarians dream. The dream of the [Bolsonaro] clan, tweeted Joice Hasselmann, a disaffected Bolsonaro ally. We cannot allow this serious attack on democracy.

Leftwing politicians vowed to seek the politicians removal from office. Eduardo is a spoiled brat bawling his authoritarian desires We will not stand for it, tweeted the progressive senator Randolfe Rodrigues, summoning Brazilians to a day of anti-authoritarian protests next Tuesday.

Schwarz called Bolsonaros remarks a Trumpian bid to distract from compromising media reports that undermined the Bolsonaro familys moral standing.

Its a bit like Donald Trumps tendency: every time you feel a scandal drawing near you do something to draw attention away from that matter and put it somewhere else, she said.

Foreign observers were also aghast. I never thought I would hear such nonsense out of Brazil, one veteran ambassador told the Brazilian journalist Jamil Chade.

The controversy caps an anarchic week in Brazilian politics.

In the early hours of Wednesday Brazils president launched a furious tirade against the putrid press from a hotel room in Saudi Arabia. That outburst came after Brazils top broadcaster revealed the investigation into the 2018 assassination of the leftist politician Marielle Franco suggested the suspects had met at Bolsonaros compound before the attack.

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