Protests erupted in Brazil this weekend following an incident involving security guards that left a black man dead in one of the country’s most expensive supermarkets. Conspicuous among the protests was messaging resembling that of the far-left Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Footage of the death of Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas at the upscale supermarket chain Carrefour went viral on social media, sparking widespread demonstrations across the country with protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter” as well as slogans such as “murderous Carrefour.”
Amid widespread anger at the supermarket chain and a plunge in its share price, Carrefour CEO Alexandre Bompard expressed his condolences to the family before ordering “a complete review of training for employees and outsourced personnel in matters of safety, respect for diversity” and “rejection of intolerance.”
The protests followed months of violent riots against conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, himself the victim of an attempted assassination by a socialist during the 2018 presidential election that he won. “Anti-fascist” demonstrations that broke out in June to demand Bolsonaro’s resignation saw the burning of Brazilian flags and clashes between protesters, police, and supporters of the president.
That same month, hundreds of people marched in the streets following the death of five-year-old Miguel da Silva. Da Silva tragically died after falling from the ninth story of the highrise in the city of Recife after his mother, a maid, had entrusted him in the care of her white employer. Many protesters implied racism behind the employer’s negligence.
In July, large scale demonstrations broke out in response to the deaths of two black Brazilians: a bar owner in Sao Paulo who died after police officers stepped on her neck and a 14-year-old killed in a favela in Rio de Janeiro following a botched police operation.
Bolsonaro has faced accusations of racism from the far-left for years and, in response to the recent wave of protests, as condemned those who want “those who want to sow conflict and discord” by trying to “import” tensions into the country “that are not part of its history.”
Brazil has a much larger biracial population than the United States, the product of mixed parenting being more common for much of Brazil’s history than in America. Out of nearly 210 million people, around half of citizens identify as white, while around 47 percent are mulatto (mixed race). Black people represent around 7.6 percent of the population.
Bolsonaro has used Brazil’s status as a “miscegenated” nations to combat accusations of systematic racism in the country.
In his address to the G20 summit this weekend, Bolsonaro condemned groups that foster “conflict, resentment, hatred and division.” Bolsonaro explained:
Brazil has a diverse culture, unique among nations. We are a miscegenated people. Whites, blacks and Indians built the body and spirit of a rich and wonderful people. In a single Brazilian family, we can contemplate a greater diversity than whole countries.
It was the essence of these people that won the sympathy of the world. However, there are those who want to destroy it, and put in its place conflict, resentment, hatred and division between races, always masked as “fighting for equality” or “social justice.” Everything in search of power. We are not perfect. We do have our problems. There are various interests creating tension among us. A united people is a sovereign people.
The BLM organization was founded in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in his trial for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. It explicitly promotes Marxist ideology and its stated aims include the abolishment of the nuclear family and the complete overthrow of the capitalist system. Some of its proposals, once prominent on its website, have been removed following criticism.
BLM has ties to Latin America. One of the group’s founders, Opal Tometi, has publicly supported Venezuela’s white dictator Nicolás Maduro, working as an “observer” in Venezuela’s fraudulent 2015 election and taking a photograph with him that appeared in VTV, the country’s state-owned propaganda broadcaster.
Doing my duty as a global citizen and serving as an election observer for the national Venezuelan elections. pic.twitter.com/VbryU74jUM
— Opal Tometi 🇳🇺🇸 (@opalayo) December 3, 2015
Progressives may soon organize larger race-based protests throughout Brazil in anticipation of the nation’s 2022 presidential election. Halfway through Bolsonaro’s term, the issue has become one of the most contentious in national politics.