Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has taken a starring role in Brazil’s increasingly antagonistic presidential election, with opponents of Jair Bolsonaro flagging up the far-right frontrunner’s links to the “democracy-sabotaging” North American nationalist.
A campaign advert for Bolsonaro’s left-wing rival, Fernando Haddad, that was released on Tuesday night highlighted the ties between the Trump-praising Brazilian populist and the man Time magazine has called “The Great Manipulator”.
“Do you really know who Bolsonaro is? Do you know who supports him?” a narrator asks viewers before responding: “Steve Bannon.”
— Fernando Haddad 13 (@Haddad_Fernando) October 16, 2018
“Steve Bannon is accused of sabotaging democratic regimes around the world. He uses fake news to spread fear and violence to win elections,” the narrator continues. “Bannon is a specialist in spreading terror around the world. Bolsonaro has spent the last 30 years doing this in Brazil.”
Bolsonaro – who polls suggest is headed for a landslide victory over the Workers’ party’s Haddad in the decisive second round on 28 October – rejected claims of links to Bannon as “typical fake news” last week.
However, in August his son and close confident, Eduardo Bolsonaro, boasted of meeting Bannon in New York.
“Today I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Bannon,” he wrote on Instagrama longside a photograph of the pair apparently taken in Manhattan.
View this post on Instagram
(POR??) Tive a prazer de conhecer hoje em Nova York Steve Bannon @steve_bannon , estrategista da campanha presidencial de Donald Trump 2016 @realdonaldtrump . Ocasião em que tivemos uma excelente conversa e compartilhamos da mesma visão de mundo. Sr. Bannon afirmou ser um entusiasta da campanha de Jair Bolsonaro e certamente estamos em contato para somar forças, principalmente contra o marxismo cultural. . . (ENG??) It was a pleasure to meet today in New York Steve Bannon, strategist in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. We had a great conversation and we do share the same worldview. Mr. Bannon said he is an enthusiast of Jair Bolsonaro's campaign and we are certainly in touch to join forces, especially against cultural marxism.
He added: “We had a great conversation and we share the same worldview. Mr Bannon stated that he was an enthusiast for Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign and we will certainly be in contact to join forces, above all against cultural marxism.”
In a subsequent interview with the Brazilian magazine Época, Eduardo Bolsonaro claimed the former Breitbart News chief had “said he was open to helping” his father’s campaign. “This, obviously, doesn’t include anything financial. We made this very clear, on both sides. The support involves internet tips, perhaps an analysis, interpreting data, this kind of thing,” Bolsonaro was quoted as saying.
Speaking in London last week, Bannon called Brazil a potentially key component in the worldwide nationalist network he was seeking to build with his Brussels-based foundation “The Movement”.
“The Movement is actually not just about the EU. It is really global in nature,” Bannon said, adding: “I see what is happening in Brazil as part of this populist movement.”
In an interview with the Guardian in April, Eduardo Bolsonaro described his father’s rise in similar terms, drawing parallels with Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.
“I think this is a global movement … [of people] looking for order and who no longer believe in the political class,” said Eduardo Bolsonaro, 34.
“People are tired, fed up.”
However, Eduardo Bolsonaro denied his father was an extreme-right politician. “These are pejorative terms created to denigrate us. I’d say we were conservative in our customs and liberal with the economy. So on the spectrum we are centre-right.”
On Tuesday, Jair Bolsonaro rebuffed an endorsement from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. “He sounds like us,” the white supremacist was reported to have said of Jair Bolsonaro, who is notorious in Brazil for making hostile comments about its black, indigenous and LGBT communities.
In response, Bolsonaro tweeted in English: “I refuse any kind of support coming from supremacist groups … This is an offense with Brazilian, the most beautiful and mixed race people in the world.”