Rise of Neo-Nazi Groups in Brazil

In the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, in the south, Andrea Muller was planning an event for Haitian immigrants in November. She received a terrifying message just hours before the tragedy. “Cancel the Haiti exhibition or we will commit a massacre,” the email’s subject line warned Reuters. “Santa Catarina is a land of WHITE PEOPLE, FOR WHITE PEOPLE,” the anonymous writer exclaimed. They concluded by flashing the Nazi salute. “SIEG HEIL.”

With police present, the event proceeded without incident. However, the email is indicative of a little but growing number of neo-Nazi incidents in Brazil. Following the rise of far-right politics during former President Jair Bolsonaro’s 2019–2023 tenure, the number of incidents has grown. Bolsonaro faced intense criticism for his support of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Opponents claim that his anti-democratic assaults on the nation’s voting procedures during the previous year’s election put the indigenous population in jeopardy. The 1989 racism law in Brazil forbids the use of Nazi-affiliated symbols like the swastika. Speech deemed to be “apologies for the regime of Adolf Hitler” is not protected in Brazil by the rules governing freedom of speech.

According to the authorities, so far this year, 21 investigations have been launched into the creation, distribution, mailing, or display of Swastikas. Compared to 2018, the year Bolsonaro was elected, that represents an increase of one. Some experts claim that the issue is more serious than the data indicates. Suspects in two school attacks this year donned armbands bearing Nazi symbols. Researchers from Unicamp University in Sao Paulo state have discovered that, since 2015, the number of neo-Nazi groups in Brazil has surged by more than ten times. Bolsonaro, according to the Unicamp researchers, “fueled” the emergence of these groups.

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