Brazil’s Right-Wing President Faces Backlash After Explicit Tweets

*The Breakdown is The North Star’s daily analysis of an essential news story designed to provide historical context, go beyond the popular headlines, and offer a glimpse of where this story may be going next.


Key Facts: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is embroiled in a political firestorm after tweeting a sexually explicit video to his more than 3.4 million followers. The footage, reportedly filmed in a parade in Sao Paulo called “bloco” (Portuguese for the street parties that take place during carnival season), shows one man pleasuring himself before another man started urinating on his head.

“I don’t feel comfortable showing this, but we have to expose the truth to the population to have knowledge [of festivities] and always take their priorities,” Bolsonaro tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “This is what has become of many blocos in the Brazilian carnival. Comment and draw your conclusions.”

Hours later, he tweeted: “What is a golden shower?” in reference to the sexual practice of urinating on a partner. His tweets spurred widespread condemnation in Brazilian media, and other detractors have called him a “fascist” and a man who lacks decorum. BloCU, the organization that hosted the bloco, issued a statement lamenting that “the current president of Brazil has chosen, in an irresponsible and unseemly way, an isolated fact about the carnival of 2019 to post on their social networks," and added that “no security or offense issues were reported during the course of the party.” In response, the office of the president released a note on Thursday. “There was no intention to criticize carnival in a generic way,” it read.

Historical Context: Bolsonaro is known for his anti-LGBTQ stance. Prior to his presidential victory in October of 2018, Brazil’s gay community feared that the president could legitimize violence against them. “Yes, I’m homophobic — and very proud of it,” he once said, and added in a 2013 interview with the BBC that “Brazilian society doesn’t like homosexuals.” Bolsonaro previously said that he’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Bolsonaro earned the moniker “Trump of the Tropics” due to his anti-establishment style and use of social media platforms. He has also made controversial remarks on immigration, abortion, and race. In 2016, he told a female lawmaker that she was not worth raping because “she’s very ugly.”

Despite his homophobic remarks, some members of Brazil’s gay community supported Bolsonaro during the country’s presidential race because they had also rejected the policies of left-leaning Worker’s Party and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Beneath the Surface: Bolsonaro marks a return of conservative values and evangelical politics. This is the first carnival season under the current Brazilian leader whose conservative base have shown contempt for festivities across the country because of their “sexual liberation.” Even Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a former evangelical pastor, has not taken part in the carnival’s most important rituals during his nearly two-year tenure.

What’s Next: Bolsonaro’s obscene tweets have bolstered calls of impeachment, with the hashtag #impeachmentBolsonaro becoming a trending topic on Brazil’s social media. The Worker’s Party will ask the country’s attorney general to investigate the president for the publication of said video. According to Workers’ Party Federal Deputy Paulo Teixeira of Sao Paulo, "Law 13,718, recently approved, typifies the crime of disclosure, without the consent of the victim, of sex, nudity or pornography."


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and U.S. politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.