The Global Far Right Is Betting the House on Bolsonaro

Far-right organizations like Project Veritas in the US and the Vox party in Spain are increasingly looking to Latin America as the key to consolidating their international network. To prevent that from happening, Jair Bolsonaro must be stopped from winning — or stealing — Brazil's 2022 election.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro speaks at Planalto Palace in Brasília on October 7, 2021. (Mateus Bonomi / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

From Donald Trump to Vox’s Santiago Abascal, the international far right is uniting around what, according to Steve Bannon, will be a top priority in 2022: getting Jair Bolsonaro reelected as president of Brazil.

For the Left as well, the 2022 Brazilian election is building up to be a contest that could deliver a crucial blow to an increasingly well-organized far-right network.

The Bannon Boys

Former Trump spokesman Jason Miller was recently detained and interrogated for three hours at Brasília airport. Miller, whose arrest was first reported by Portal Metrópoles, was in Brazil participating in the local version of the Conference on Conservative Political Action (CPAC Brasil). The yearly event hosted by the American Conservative Union has become increasingly international in the last three years, with conferences also held in Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Miller is currently the CEO of Gettr, a right-wing social media platform created after former president Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and several other platforms in the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6. Trump’s former aide was questioned by the Brazilian Federal Police in connection with his possible involvement in “antidemocratic acts,” suggesting that Miller might be suspected of conspiring with Bolsonaro to engage in a campaign of misinformation. The minister of the Supreme Federal Court, Alexandre de Moraes, issued the order to interrogate Miller as part of an ongoing investigation into Bolsonaro’s attempt to discredit the voting system and undermine the 2022 elections.

Miller’s detention at the airport caused a stir among other CPAC participants. Matthew Tyrmand, a Steve Bannon protégé who was also in Brazil for the CPAC event, claimed that the Brazilian Supreme Court ordered Miller’s detention based on an explicit anti-Bolsonaro bias.

According to his Atlas Network profile (removed after his trip to Brazil), Tyrmand is the son of Leopold Tyrmand, a Polish writer who edited the anti-communist publication Chronicles of Culture. After working for a time on Wall Street, Tyrmand began writing in 2016 for Breitbart, the far-right media site previously run by Steve Bannon.

More importantly, Tyrmand is one of the board members of Project Veritas, a right-wing organization that claims to expose plots and crimes committed by liberals and leftists. The organization’s main activity, however, seems to consist almost entirely of attacking journalists, political groups, and social movements, and has well-documented links to anti-labor groups that have sought to destroy teachers’ unions.

According to an American Federation of Teachers Michigan publication:

Project Veritas had revenue of $3.7 million in 2015, the year for which its most recent public tax records are available. Although most of its donors have not been publicly disclosed, we know that the Donors Trust, the Koch-related foundation that has been called “the conservative right’s obscure cash machine,” has contributed more than $2.1 million since 2012. The Donors Trust is funded by anonymous contributions from Koch network donors, who allegedly include Betsy DeVos and her husband. Donald Trump is also a Project Veritas donor, contributing $10,000 in 2015. Trump referenced Project videos during the presidential debates and Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about them.

Jair Boslonaro’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro was also present at the CPAC meeting. There, Eduardo defended Project Veritas and spoke of the need to create a Brazilian version that would similarly monitor journalists and expose political bias in the media. In addition to Eduardo, Tyrmand also met with Jair Bolsonaro and his son Senator Flávio Bolsonaro at the official Brazilian presidential residence.

While Tyrmand, Miller, and other Bannon proteges were working behind the scenes, Bannon himself spoke openly about the significance of Bolsonaro’s campaign for the international far right:

Jair Bolsonaro will face the most dangerous leftist in the world, Lula, a criminal and communist supported by all the media here in the United States. . . . This election is the second most important in the world and the most important of all time in South America. Bolsonaro will win, unless [it] is stolen.

Bannon thus repeated Bolsonaro’s unfounded allegation that electronic voting machines could be tampered with to guarantee his defeat. Bannon’s praise for Bolsonaro is generally consistent with the international far-right movement’s view that Bolsonaro is the last great defender of “Western civilization.”

Foro de Madrid

The Bolsonaro family has become a key player in a growing far-right network that increasingly seems to center around Latin America. In 2019, Eduardo Bolsonaro announced that he would represent South America in the Movement, a consortium of conservative European representatives founded by Steve Bannon that supports populist nationalism and rejects the influence of “globalism.” While the political impact of the Movement has been negligible, it did help Eduardo Bolsonaro consolidate international alliances and position himself as his father’s unofficial ambassador in far-right circles abroad.

Eduardo has most recently been involved in one of the more disconcerting developments in far-right international politics. The Foro de Madrid is a self-described “coordinated effort between different actors, from different ideological spheres, who share their determination to face the threat posed by the growth of communism on both sides of the Atlantic, which is supported by the Forum of São Paulo and the Puebla Group.”

In addition to Eduardo Bolsonaro, the Foro is overseen by a figure whose presence in Latin American politics seems to be growing: Vox party leader Santiago Abascal. The Spanish politician established the Foro as an international platform promoting xenophobia and white supremacy. He shares with his other colleagues the same visceral hatred of anything that smacks of leftist or progressive politics.

Abascal and Vox’s relationship with Latin America is growing stronger. Abascal recently traveled to Mexico, where he received the support of fifteen senators and three congressmen from the National Action Party and Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Similarly, Vox president and European Parliament minister Hermann Tertsch recently travelled to Peru, where he was received by opposition forces currently under investigation for sedition in their campaign against left-wing president Pedro Castillo. Tertsch was also nominated by former Bolivian dictator Jeanine Áñez for the Sakharov Prize, awarded by the European Parliament in recognition of “freedom of thought.” Within the European Parliament, Vox is currently trying to push its agenda for the governing body to oppose left-wing governments in Latin America.

As the Zetkin Collective writes in Jacobin América Latina, Vox has established contact with prominent right-wing politicians in nearly every part of Latin America, hoping to extend its sphere of “Ibero influence” across the region.

Geopolitics of Chaos

The far right is getting more organized and is showing its commitment to destabilize progressive movements and governments across the globe, particularly in Latin America.

Bolsonaro’s Brazil is the great stronghold of the global far right, and the president is increasingly making overtures in its direction as he sees his hopes of reelection vanishing.

Bolsonaro’s desperation became especially apparent after his failed September 7 rally. Cornered, the danger that Bolsonaro might appeal for international support is real. The 2022 elections will be a decisive battle not only for Brazil but for the entire world.