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“This Is Just the Beginning”: Greenwald on Rising State Violence & Homophobia in Bolsonaro’s Brazil

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On Friday, an operation by Brazilian military police in Rio de Janeiro left at least 13 people dead after a shootout in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Police say they were there to investigate suspected drug traffickers but encountered gunfire when they entered the area. Last month, Rio’s new governor, Wilson Witzel, said that city security forces were authorized to shoot to kill suspects. He also said Rio should have its own Guantánamo Bay to house criminals, whom he labeled “terrorists.” Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vowed to intensify the war on drugs. While running for president, Bolsonaro said a “good criminal is a dead criminal.” In other news from Brazil, Brazil’s first elected openly gay federal lawmaker, Jean Wyllys, recently left his post and fled Brazil, amid growing homophobic violence coinciding with the rise of Bolsonaro. He was replaced in Brazil’s Congress by David Miranda, a Rio city councilmember and husband of our guest, Glenn Greenwald.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Glenn, I want to turn to where you are right now, to Brazil. Glenn Greenwald, you’re speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro. On Friday, an operation by Brazilian military police there, in Rio, left at least 13 people dead after a shootout in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Police say they were there to investigate suspected drug traffickers but encountered gunfire when they entered the area. Last month, Rio’s new governor, Wilson Witzel, said that city security forces are authorized to shoot to kill suspects. He also said Rio should have its own Guantánamo Bay to house criminals, whom he labeled “terrorists.” Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vowed to intensify the war on drugs. While running for president, Bolsonaro said a “good criminal is a dead criminal.”

And in other news from Brazil, Brazil’s first elected openly gay federal lawmaker, Jean Wyllys, recently left his post and fled Brazil, amidst growing homophobic violence coinciding with the rise of Bolsonaro. And he is now replaced in Brazil’s Congress by your husband, David Miranda, a Rio city councilmember.

Glenn, can you talk about this latest news and the state of Brazil under Bolsonaro?

GLENN GREENWALD: So, this is what everybody was afraid of when Bolsonaro won. He got elected based on his promise to unleash the police and to authorize indiscriminate violence in the favelas, where the poorest people in Brazil live, largely black; to give the police immunity for when they engage in indiscriminate slaughter. He’s talked about this as a war. He is using the Duterte model in the Philippines of just going in and indiscriminately killing poor people, killing drug dealers but also innocent people. And the governor of Rio de Janeiro is, on some level, even more extreme.

And this is probably the first overt manifestation of that policy, where 13 people were killed. Folha, the largest newspaper in Brazil, reported that at least several, if not most, of the people killed were executed after they surrendered, which means it was just summary execution. The police laughed and told the frightened residents that the next time it will be 20 people who are dead. So, this is just the beginning of what is certain to be a very frightening climate.

As far as Congressman Jean Wyllys fleeing the country, that obviously is very frightening, as well, given that the other prong of Bolsonaro’s appeal was his constant, vicious homophobia, depicting gay people as pedophiles, as a threat to children. And Jean was a really courageous figure. He was, for a long time, the only openly gay member of the Brazilian Congress. He was literally physically bullied. They would bash into him in the hallway when they passed him. They would call him “faggot.” He suffered a lot over the last decade. I know him personally very well. And he just reached a point where he was getting very specific death threats, saying, “Here’s your address. Here’s your license plate. We’re going to chop your mother up and send her—send you her head.” Horrific things. And he decided he just no longer could withstand that level of fear. My husband, as you said, ran for Congress, came in right behind him, and therefore legally took over that position when Jean Wyllys renounced it. And my husband is now one of two openly gay members of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress and is already facing similar kinds of attacks and similar kinds of threats.

That’s the climate that has been created here in Brazil, quite deliberately, by President Bolsonaro. But, you know, we’ll see how things unfold. There’s a lot of opposition in the media, I’m happy to report. There’s a vibrant left-wing movement coalescing against this, and I have a lot of optimism about the ability to fight against this.

AMY GOODMAN: How are you going to protect yourselves and your children?

GLENN GREENWALD: You know, I mean, obviously, we are aware of the fact that we’re both very—a very visible gay couple. I have, as you know, a media outlet, The Intercept Brasil, that has grown very, very rapidly, that has a very large audience and that has been very critical of Bolsonaro. And in a country where there’s a lot of hostility toward LGBTs, we, as an interracial, visible gay couple, with two adopted children from the northeastern part of the country, are obviously threats. And we’re aware of that. We’re taking security precautions. But, you know, I look at Brazil as a country that I love, that belongs to my husband and my children, and is one that we intend to stay and fight for as well as we can.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, a former Rio de Janeiro police officer with ties to organized crime has been identified as the likely killer of a prominent human rights, gay rights activist, city councilmember, your friend, Marielle Franco, who was shot dead, along with her driver, in Rio last March. According to a police report reviewed by your media outlet, The Intercept, six witnesses have identified the ex-cop as the killer. The officer, who hasn’t been publicly named, had been kicked out of Rio’s military force, now works as a mercenary for dirty politicians and others. Witnesses say the gunman didn’t act alone. Where have you taken these links from there?

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah. So, I think there was actually an important context I left out of the discussion of Jean, which is that Jean was part of the same party, the PSOL party, that Marielle Franco belonged to—Marielle Franco, as you mentioned, the black woman from the favela, who was also LGBT, assassinated 10 months ago. Her killers are still unapprehended. It’s the same party that one of its leaders was just revealed to have been very close to being assassinated by the militia. And these militias—and it’s also the party of my husband.

And the head of this militia had his wife and his daughter—I’m sorry, his wife and his mother working in the Cabinet of Flávio Bolsonaro, who was a state representative and is now a federal senator, the son of Jair Bolsonaro, which means the Bolsonaros have direct and close ties to the most dangerous and violent militia in Brazil, the one that played a critical role, the police say, in killing Marielle Franco. This is something that everybody is extremely interested in investigating. We all knew that the Bolsonaros philosophically supported the militias, but it came as quite a shock to learn how close of ties, actual ties, the Bolsonaro family has to the leaders of this militia. I regard this as one of the most serious and one of the gravest scandals in Brazil. It’s something that we, as a media outlet, and other media outlets are very aggressively investigating. And I hope the police, who say they are, are doing that, as well.

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