On 21 October, Jair Bolsonaro, the now president-elect of Brazil, made an announcement via his smartphone that was transmitted to crowds of supporters gathered in São Paulo: “Criminals of the MST [Landless Workers’ Movement], criminals of the MTST [Homeless Workers’ Movement], your actions will be classified as terrorism.” This was delivered as part of a broader threat made to the Left (Mollona 2018)—singling out Fernando Haddad, his Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) opponent in the presidential race, who he promised could “rot in jail” together with the currently imprisoned former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva—which would be “cleansed” after he assumed presidential office.
On Sunday, 7 October, the Brazilian people will go to the polls to elect their next president. There has never been such a dramatic election since 15 January 1985, when Brazil returned to the polls after 20 years of dictatorship (1964–1985)—although voting took place still within the electoral college system put in place during the dictatorship. Following the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff two years ago (which Alfredo Saad-Filho described as a “coup”) and a chaotic interregnum led by the corrupted Michel Temer (PMDB)—who nonetheless was very effective in curbing workers’ rights by amending part of the famously pro-labor Consolidated Labour Laws, regularizing outsourcing, and cutting workers’ pensions—the future of Brazilian democracy hangs in the balance. Much of it will be decided at the polls.