In Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, neo-Nazis increasingly visible and uninhibited

LETTER FROM RIO DE JANEIRO

On the surface, everything seems normal. On the videos posted online, a young student turns 24. There are colorful balloons, sweets. The family is happy and sings in the heart ” happy Birthday “. But one detail catches the eye. On the festivities table sits a big cream cake. In its center, the pastry chef has drawn a famous character, whom one imagines important for the present. This is Adolf Hitler.

The leader of IIIe Reich is represented there in brown costume and armband flocked with a swastika. The shocking image, which appears to have been posted in late September from the southern Brazilian town of Pelotas, quickly went viral, unleashing shockwaves and outrage online across the country. Confirmed or not, the incident is indeed far from isolated. In recent years, the number of scandals involving neo-Nazis has exploded.

The list goes on: in December 2019, a man was photographed in Unai (Minas Gerais), his arm encircled by a swastika. In May, in Florianopolis (Santa Catarina), another individual is seen waving a Nazi flag at the window of his building, under the eyes of his neighbors. Two months later, in July, a 48-year-old homosexual was beaten up by attackers in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais). They abandon him, unconscious, a swastika drawn on his forehead.

Some 530 “neo-Nazi cells”

Several cases have recently involved the policies of the State of Santa Catarina, the historic establishment of the Brazilian Nazis. In 2020, the Liberal Party (PL, right) caused a scandal by investing as a municipal candidate in the small town of Pomerode a history professor, notorious Nazi, known in the region for having painted a swastika to adorn the background from his swimming pool.

During the same period, the interim governor of the same state, Daniela Reinehr, newly invested in her post, was summoned to explain the activities of her father, Altair, one of the most famous deniers in the country. ” As a daughter, I must maintain harmony in my family ”, then sweeps away the politician who, under pressure, will end up declaring herself lip service “Opposed to Nazism”.

These scandals are just the tip of the iceberg. According to researcher Adriana Dias, a specialist on the subject, the number of “Neo-Nazi cells” would have jumped from 75 to 530 in Brazil between 2015 and 2021. In all, some 500,000 Brazilians are believed to be consumers of products linked to IIIe Reich (editions of My fight, Hitler busts, armbands, flags…).

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