Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted Wednesday morning: “O que é golden shower?”
Even people who don’t speak Portuguese can probably translate. But just in case, Bolsonaro, who is the democratically elected leader of South America’s largest country, asked his millions of Twitter followers: “What is a golden shower?”
And somehow this doesn’t even refer to that golden shower.
According to Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, the video Bolsonaro posted was “gay kink porn” involving a man urinating on another man.
Basically, the president of Brazil tweeted pornographic content from his official account. Posting the video, which was reportedly filmed in São Paulo, Bolsonaro wrote that “it doesn’t make me comfortable to show, but we have to expose the truth for the population.”
“This is what many street Carnival groups have become,” he added.
Carnival appears to have incensed Bolsonaro this year, as the revelry also turned into a protest of the president and his policies.
But Bolsonaro’s (extremely bizarre) attempt to punch back is instead another example of why his critics are using the festivities to rally against the Brazilian leader. The tweet fits directly with the far-right worldview embraced — and propagated — by Bolsonaro, who has a history of alarming racist, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and who has instituted policies since taking office that chip away at rights of minority groups.
Bolsonaro and his allies have scapegoated LGBTQ people and other minority groups
Bolsonaro’s incendiary comments targeting LGBTQ people, indigenous groups, and left-leaning politicians and academics during his days as a Brazilian legislator and presidential candidate have been well documented.
Bolsonaro built much of his outsider campaign on the idea of returning to traditional values, and he and his allies have attacked so-called “gender ideology,” a kind of catchall that refers the promotion of LGBTQ rights, feminism, and leftist ideals — usually through the school system — that he sees as undermining the social order.
Greenwald, in writing about Bolsonaro’s strange tweet Tuesday night, drew this same connection — and called out Bolsonaro’s hypocrisy:
A *major* part of Bolsonaron’s campaign was ranting against the evils of talking to school kids about LGBTs (eg: the evils of homophobia & bigotry). But then last night he posted a gay kink porn video to countless children & then forced the country today to discuss golden showers
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 6, 2019
Bolsonaro’s inappropriate tweet is more than just fear-mongering. It also hints at something more dangerous — not least because the president has already begun translating his regressive views into policies that directly threaten minority groups.
In his first week in office, Bolsonaro rolled back protections for indigenous populations and LGBTQ people. Legislation has since been introduced to define a relationship as between a man and a woman, according to the Washington Post. While such proposals might not pass, LGBTQ advocates are seeing a backlash happen in real time. Brazil’s only openly gay Congress member announced in January he was leaving the country after receiving death threats.
Bolsonaro has also lauded the military dictatorship of Brazil’s past and taken steps to crack down on workers’ and union rights.
Bolsonaro’s tweet somehow manages to sum up why many critics see him as a threat to both democracy and human rights: He’s using propaganda to attack a minority group and to disparage protesters who are fighting back against his policies.
US lawmakers are taking notice — and calling on Secretary of State Pompeo to speak out
The Trump administration has embraced Bolsonaro as an ally and partner in the region, despite (or perhaps because of) his views.
Trump praised Bolsonaro’s inauguration speech in January, tweeting, “the U.S.A. is with you!” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended Bolsonaro’s swearing-in ceremony, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley called Bolsonaro — who, again, has lauded Brazil’s military dictatorship past — as a US-friendly leader who “will join the fight against dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba.”
The Trump administration’s backing of Bolsonaro — and its silence on some of his more disturbing moves since taking office — has gotten the notice of 30 Democratic members of Congress. Reps. Susan Wild (D-PA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) are leading the effort to demand Pompeo address Bolsonaro’s policies.
In a letter to Pompeo sent Tuesday, lawmakers urged the secretary of state to “emphasize the importance of defending human rights.”
“Since the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president, we have been particularly alarmed by the threat Bolsonaro’s agenda poses to the LGBTQ+ community and other minority communities, women, labor activists, and political dissidents in Brazil,” the lawmakers write. “We are deeply concerned that, by targeting hard-won political and social rights, Bolsonaro is endangering Brazil’s long-term democratic future.”
The lawmakers include a laundry list of alarming actions by Bolsonaro, including his issuing of executive orders that undermined the status of LGBTQ and indigenous groups, the downplaying of sexual violence against women, and the sidelining of unions.
“We are deeply disappointed that — far from expressing the United States’ concern for defending human rights in Brazil — the Administration has made public statements praising Bolsonaro,” the lawmakers conclude.
The Trump administration has a checkered record when it comes to calling out human rights abuses — as seen in the administration’s cozying up to brutal leaders such as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the president’s public silence on North Korean human rights abuses during his recent summit with Kim Jong Un. Brazil is yet another example where the US is falling short — and lawmakers are pressing the issue with Pompeo.
Still, the US sees Bolsonaro as a vital regional partner in its pressure campaign against Venezuela, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Then again, anyone who brings up golden showers doesn’t tend to stay in Trump’s good graces for long.
For more on the lawmakers’ letter, read the full text here.