‘How are other countries going to see Brazil? It’s a shame’

Brazilians living in Ireland have described the chaotic scenes in their homeland as a ‘step back’ for democracy

Gabriela Lobianco: 'The far right has been impregnating Brazil in a way that it is spreading a lot of misinformation.'

Brazilians in Ireland have expressed huge disappointment at the scenes of an insurrection in their home country.

There have been mass arrests in the capital Brasília after hard-core followers of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the presidential palace, congress and supreme court.

Gabriela Lobianco, who is from São Paulo but has lived in Cork for 15 years, said that election denialists in the far right used social media channels and What’sApp to help galvanise support that ultimately led to mayhem in the capital.

“They have used WhatsApp and a lot of miscommunication and a lot of propaganda similar to what we saw in the US and Russia.

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“The far right has been impregnating Brazil in a way that it is spreading a lot of misinformation. They are using the mass movement to praise and put Bolsonaro as leader and as somebody to aspire to. Even though he has been really bad.

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Ms Lobianco said that Bolsonaro is trying to “mimic what happened with [Donald] Trump” by galvanising his supporters to take control.

The IT worker said that Brazilians were aware that something sinister was bubbling under the surface. However, they could never have predicted the extent of what occurred in the capital.

I came from Cork to Dublin to vote in the election. It was a strenuous trip, but it was important

“Lula [President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] is trying to hold the democratic way of the country. It was really important for us to vote. I came from Cork to Dublin. It was a strenuous trip to come and vote, but it was important. We wanted to do that democratically,” she said.

Ms Lobianco said the rioters are trying to generate mistrust in the legitimate, democratically elected Government of Brazil.

“Everybody loses in this situation. We see with the war in Ukraine, we see with Syrian refugees, we see with a lot of human rights issues the far right try to overcome what is good for humanity overall. Misinformation in my opinion is one of the main seeds of that.”

Ms Lobianco stays informed of current affairs back home. She has spoken to her mother who is “frightened” about the riots.

“She was calling me saying she is frightened. She doesn’t know what is going to happen, because of Bolsonaro. His politics towards Covid, corruption and all of that. Covid in Brazil is really high. Even though Brazilians are prone to vaccine because of those masses [of misinformation], they are not having good vaccination numbers. My mum was like: ‘What is going to happen? I don’t know. I am afraid.’ She is very afraid.”

Bolsonaro followers are kind of supportive of Trump. But we didn’t think they would be so stupid as to do that

—  Aline Colognese

Meanwhile, Aline Colognese, a Brazilian national who also works in IT in Cork, said that the insurrection has been the subject of much discussion in a Facebook group she has joined and is made up of expats.

“There is much discussion. I am thinking about it internationally. How are other countries going to see Brazil? We need to protect our democracy. We fought so hard to have that 30 years ago. And now we have part of society that is trying to destroy that. We didn’t think they would go that far [in terms of rioting in the capital]. The taxpayers are going to end up paying [for the destruction]. Also the shame, as well, that this was on the international news. It is a shame. "

Ms Colognese said that the January 6th Capitol attack in Washington DC in 2021 “didn’t work”. She cannot understand why rioters in Brazil have seen fit to commit similar vandalism in their own country.

“The situation that happened in the US with the Capitol invasion. We saw that it didn’t work,” she says. “So why do the same Brazil? Bolsonaro followers are kind of supportive of Trump. But we didn’t think they would be so stupid as to do that. But we must ensure that our democracy is kept in place and protected. We sought so hard to have it back and we must protect it at all costs.”

Ms Colognese, who has lived in Ireland for nine years, adds that the rioters “should go to jail and pay for everything”.

“The Government needs to do everything they can to punish those crazy people. I am 32-years-old, so [the fight] for democracy was something I learned about at school. How many people were killed for democracy and now there is this step back. It makes no sense. You can’t just take over by force. "

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Thousands of Brazilian voters living in Ireland travelled to Croke Park in Dublin last October to make their choice in the presidential run-off between Bolsonaro and Lula.

There are 12,000 registered Brazilian voters in the Republic of Ireland. The 2016 census recorded 13,600 Brazilians living in Ireland, triple the number from a decade before.