In This Review

Beef, Bible, and Bullets: Brazil in the Age of Bolsonaro
Beef, Bible, and Bullets: Brazil in the Age of Bolsonaro
By Richard Lapper
Manchester University Press, 2021, 304 pp

Lapper, a seasoned journalist, gracefully tackles a perplexing conundrum: How could a reputedly lighthearted, tolerant country such as Brazil, governed for two decades by highly intelligent progressive democrats, suddenly elect a bombastic, antiestablishment authoritarian? No single causal factor explains the rise of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. A former military officer and congressional backbencher, Bolsonaro tapped into several overflowing wells of societal discontent. A prolonged economic downturn had dashed the high hopes of the emerging Brazilian middle class. Identity politics advocating liberal positions on issues such as gay rights and abortion deeply offended the rapidly growing segment of Brazilians who identify as evangelical Christians. Ambitious cattle and soy farmers bristled against regulations protecting the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the mass media fueled disenchantment by highlighting government corruption scandals and frightening levels of violent crime. As president, Bolsonaro has maintained his aggressive, highly personalist style. Lapper finds that although Bolsonaro has polarized Brazilian society ahead of his reelection bid in 2022, the country’s institutions—the National Congress, the courts, mainstream media, and nongovernmental organizations—have remained resilient and have blocked much of the president’s reactionary social and economic agenda.