The former founder of the Brazilian branch of Femen, now a far-right, has been jailed in Brazil for threatening the high court.
The Brazilian Sara Winter, 27 years old, is the most visible face of a radical group that no one would know if it were not for the powerful multiplier effect that social networks exert. The 300 in Brazil is called, but they would like to be so many. This former activist of the feminist movement, an unsuccessful candidate for deputy and a TV star, is the spokesperson for the most extreme cell of Bolsonarism.
In the early hours of May 31, Winter led a protest of about thirty people with face masks, black clothes and, most disturbingly, torches, in front of the Supreme Court in Brasilia, whose headquarters was attacked days later with fireworks. The activist was arrested on Monday and imprisoned for “serious injury and threats.”
It is difficult for someone outside the torchlight to witness the scene because it was early in the morning, in the middle of a pandemic, and because Óscar Niemeyer designed Brasilia so that there is not a single dwelling a few kilometres around the epicentre of the three powers. But the Internet virtualized the rudimentary video. Those images, reminiscent of a Ku Klux Klan without hoods, shocked many Brazilians who in those days saw on their televisions how the USA burned with massive anti-racist protests.
Winter’s track record in activism seems like a rush to try to get attention. Her most recent reincarnation – an advocate for President Jair Bolsonaro willing to give her life for Brazil – has brought her to the centre of the dispute between the far-right and the highest court. A whole trip for a woman who, just a few years ago, castrated, according to the BBC Brazil, a Bolsonaro doll when he was an irrelevant deputy and she a feminist protesting against patriarchy and in favour of humanized childbirth with open breasts. What hasn’t changed since then is her hair, her hallmark—Platinum blonde with dark roots.
The conflict in which the activist, who denies her feminist past, is now involved is also profound. The courts have open a handful of investigations into Bolsonaro, his family, his presidential candidacy, and his political environment that has made the Supreme Court the president’s most recent favourite enemy. Bolsonaro is a firm believer in God and that a good enemy keeps the ranks tight. “They are committing abuses, that is clear,” he said Wednesday about the Supreme. The confrontation with the other powers rises and falls in intensity, but it is constant.
In addition to the more or less veiled threats from the president and his ministers against the Judiciary, the acts of Bolsonar followers in favour of military intervention, the closure of the Supreme Court and Congress are added. The arrest on Thursday of Fabricio Queiroz, a close collaborator of his oldest son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, in a corruption investigation tightens the judicial fence around the clan.
Because the Supreme Court sessions are public and televised – for the sake of transparency – their deliberations are part of the everyday political debate. This Wednesday the headlines were for a message attributed to Bolsonaristas that is part of an investigation: “That they rape and kill the daughters of the Supreme Court justices,” he said. All this, combined with a president who considers himself unjustly persecuted, goes from crisis to crisis, gives wings to the coup and leads a political movement fond of conspiracy theories, they form a high-voltage cocktail.
Add citizenship hooked on social networks riddled with half-truths that fuel the social schism and, icing on the cake, extravagant characters such as Winter. Brazil often seems to be peering into the abyss, but for now, the counterweights are working.
The 300 in Brazil would probably want to emulate the Thermopylae Spartan warriors in more than just the name. Winter, who has admitted to the press that some of his comrades are armed, defends the extermination of the left and that the people directly assume power. The quarantine of the pandemic did not prevent them from setting up a camp on the esplanade of the ministries in Brasilia for weeks until a judge expelled them from there.
Mother of a four-year-old boy, her real name is Sara Giromini. But she likes to provoke so much that she chose a nickname reminiscent of Sarah Winter, a high society lady who belonged in the twenties to the British fascist party. What was said to Veja magazine by one of the Brazilian’s brothers after his arrest makes it clear why they do not speak: “We need to kick out these people who want fame, money and power. Sara is a national shame Today she is with Jair Bolsonaro, tomorrow she could be with Lula.”