The Torturer


People say that this guy isn’t a concrete threat, said “Raíssa Leal, a 25-year-old student, as she left another event and headed home to her favela community in Jacarepaguá. “But his supporters are.”

Indianara Siqueira, a veteran transgender rights activist attending a recent protest, reeled off a list of incidents she’d either experienced or heard about. Shouting on the train (“Hey, you faggots, take care, because Bolsonaro is going to kill you all”). Lesbians being threatened with rape. Whispering in the street (“Soon it will be the end for you”). That day, a friend of hers had been elbowed by a stranger in a train station. Siqueira wryly pointed out that, while everyone else in Rio is told always to walk in groups for safety, “for LGBTI people, to walk in a group is actually more dangerous.”

At both protests we attended, there was a hyper-vigilance among the crowd. If a street vendor dropped a tray of cans, or a car blared its horn, people’s heads swiveled in that direction. The day after Bolsonaro’s first-round win, Moa do Katende, a renowned Capoeira teacher in the northeastern city of Salvador, had been killed with 12 stab wounds to the back, after a bar dispute with a raving Bolsonaro supporter. Leal noted that Katende was black, a practitioner of an Afro-Brazilian art form, and a supporter of the Worker’s Party in one of its regional bastions. “That says a lot about who exactly are the targets,” she explained.

Hours after that murder, a 19-year-old woman had a swastika carved into her skin by a group of men in the southern city of Porto Alegre. She had been wearing a T-shirt of the #EleNão (#NotHim) movement, the main, feminist-led mass-mobilization against Bolsonaro’s candidacy. Since September 30, more than 50 violent attacks and in-person threats have been perpetrated across the country in the name of Bolsonaro.

“They recognize themselves in the image of Bolsonaro,” said Leal.. “It’s not just him – it’s millions of people who think like him.”

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