The Brazilian political scenario has gone through ups and downs recently.
Allow me to add some context first
After four years of a disgraceful far-right administration under former president Jair Bolsonaro, whose criminal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic led to over 600 thousand deaths, Brazilian presidential elections took place in October 2022 and former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, from the Worker’s Party (PT), was elected for the third time.
Although a sigh of relief for most Brazilians, especially the ones living in the poorest parts of the country, Bolsonaro still came out of the elections with a whopping 49.1% of votes, against Lula’s 50.9%. A difference of only 3 million votes in a country with a population of over 200 million.
Throughout his campaign for reelection, Bolsonaro and his team have led his supporters to believe, through fake news, misdirection and lying, that if he didn’t win the 2022 elections, it would be because there was fraud and the Brazilian electronic voting machines had been compromised by his opposers.
For that reason, Bolsonaro’s most fervent supporters had been camping in front of military headquarters all over the country, asking for military intervention and afraid of a so-called communist threat created by Bolsonaro’s non-stop fake news engine that has taken over instant message apps such as Whatsapp and Telegram.
This fake news engine has become popularly known as ‘Gabinete do Odio’ (Office of Hate) and per reports by several Brazilian news outlets, such as Metropoles and many other members of the country’s parliament who claim to have witnessed its existence, this team is directly responsible for spreading fake news on the internet and through Whatsapp.
Furthermore, several other media outlets have reported that this group is controlled by Bolsonaro’s son Carlos, a city councilman for Rio de Janeiro. The former president, however, has denied the existence of such a group.
Bolsonaro’s way of amassing voters has been controversial, to say the least. With a personal vendetta against all traditional media that do not support or defend his actions. He has resorted to urging his supporters not to trust the biggest news corporations in the country, such as Globo, calling them fake news.
Since instant messaging apps are on almost every device in the country (research shows that Whatsapp is on 99% of Brazilian smartphones), this has proved to be an effective strategy in spreading political misinformation and has become associated with Bolsonaro’s modus operandi.
This, alongside a strong narrative that paints Bolsonaro as an honest man, who has the courage to confront the corrupt media and is on a mission to take down the system, has led supporters to trust dangerous claims that he and his representatives make.
Within this discourse, Bolsonaro has disregarded the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it harmful and ineffective, as well as the seriousness of the virus and the pandemic. This alone has led thousands of his supporters not getting vaccinated. Similarly, Bolsonaro lambasted the integrity of the recent elections; calling them rigged. This is why his supporters took the streets after the results were read in October 2022.
What was the result of all this? Well…
On January 1st 2023, Lula was officially sworn in as the new president of Brazil in the traditional celebration that takes place at Palacio do Planalto, the most famous government building in the country’s capital of Brasilia. The building also serves as the place several members of the federal government work, including the president.
However, once Bolsonaro left for Orlando, Florida, and Lula officially became president, right-wing extremists started to lose hope that the military would intervene and remove Lula and replace him with Bolsonaro. This lead them to take to the streets.
On January 8, 2022 thousands of insurrectionists clad in the green and yellow, which has become synonymous with Bolsonaro’s nationalist branding, stormed the nation’s Congress in a scene similar to what American supporters of Donald Trump did on January 6, 2021.
The riot was met with little to no police intervention. Police were present at the location, but they did almost nothing to stop the extremists from invading and destroying parts of the building, including precious works of art and documents.
What does this have to do with MMA, though?
Ever since Bolsonaro became president back in 2018, it became more and more clear that many Brazilian MMA fighters agreed with his nationalist, conservative and fascist speech. Former UFC champions such as Rafael dos Anjos, Cris Cyborg and Vitor Belfort have all openly supported Bolsonaro in the past.
Vota vota e confirma @jairbolsonaro 22 é ! pic.twitter.com/95G0W8bT8A
— CrisCyborg.Com (@criscyborg) October 2, 2022
Most recently former featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who owns the estate where Bolsonaro is currently living in Orlando, also revealed his support for the former leader. In another report, it was discovered that Aldo, his wife and the former president were linked by another scandal involving emergency government money for low-income families.
Nevertheless, other fighters prefer to keep their political views – extreme as they are – out of the public eye. Such is the case of UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, who keeps politics away from his Instagram and Twitter accounts. However, Bloody Elbow has observed him sharing far-right misinformation on Whatsapp.
Shortly after Bolsonaro supporters invaded the Congress in Brasilia, Figueiredo shared a series of pictures regarding what had happened in his country’s capital. Many of which were accompanied by speech popularized by the insurrectionists who were present. One of the photos shared by Figueiredo said it was time to “Invade Brasilia. Either a free country remains or (we) die for Brazil.”
A surprising stand to be taken by the champion, who mostly uses his online presence to promote his fights or share his training methods with fans and followers. In 2020, Figueiredo was seen taking pictures with Bolsonaro when the former president visited Deiveson’s state of Para.
Another picture posted by Figueiredo on Whatsapp showed a piece of paper that reads “Now the order is to camp inside the Congress, Planalto and STF (Supremo Tribunal Federal, Brazil’s Supreme Court of Justice).”
A longer post, which also shows a picture of Bolsonaro being saluted by members of the military, reads the following:
“The generals have two options and one choice. 1: to join our country’s enemies, betray the nation and destroy the legacy of our military forces. To become cowards unworthy of the uniforms they wear and act as a militia in the service of a thief (referring to current president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva).”
“2: To honor their uniforms, protect the country and heed the people’s call, To support president Bolsonaro in the fight for democracy and freedom. To rid this country of the communist coup and become Brazilian heroes.”
At the end of the last post, Figueiredo asks his contacts to repost the message until it gets to the FFAA (Forças Armadas Brasileiras, the Brazilian Armed Forces).
So what, can’t a man express his opinions?
Being an influential figure in the MMA community, the way Figueiredo irresponsibly shares these images and requests them to be forwarded could convince others that this line of thinking is an act of resistance, instead of an insult to the voting process and Brazilian democracy. It could be argued that these messages also incite dangerous, and criminal, acts.
From 1964 to 1985, Brazil was under a military dictatorship which was marked by censorship, persecution, torture and the deaths of many who dared to oppose it. Bolsonaro is a former captain of the Brazilian army who glorifies those days and has openly regarded them as better times than the democracy state that has followed. He has gone so far as call a former torturer one of his heroes.
Most of Bolsonaro’s supporters agree with those conservative, far-right views and this is why they have been asking for the Brazilian Armed Forces to take action.
Following the invasion, president Lula addressed the issue in a press conference where he vowed to look for those responsible for the attack, as well as the ones responsible for financing it and the politicians who enabled it to happen.
On January 9, the governor of Distrito Federal, where Brasilia is located, was suspended for 90 days while he is investigated for possible connections with the attacks.
Upon learning about the posts and Figueiredo’s views, Bloody Elbow reached out to Figueiredo and asked if he would like to provide a statement. However, he stated that he was declining to comment.
Most recently, Figueiredo (21-2-1) defeated Brandon Moreno via unanimous decision in January 2022 and is scheduled to meet the Mexican for a fourth time at UFC 283.
The card is scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is expected to be headlined by a match for the vacant light heavyweight belt, between former champion Glover Teixeira and contender Jamahal Hill.
About the author: Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and travelling.
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