In an op-ed published Wednesday by the Guardian, American journalist Glenn Greenwald and Brazilian Congressman David Miranda—who are married and live with their two children in Rio de Janeiro—vowed to continue fighting against the movement behind Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, despite attacks that have included detailed death threats targeting their family.
The “must-read” piece, which elicited expressions of solidarity from around the world, came after Brazilian authorities charged Greenwald with cybercrime last week, a move broadly condemned as an intimidation effort in retaliation for The Intercept‘s co-founder reporting on corruption involving key figures in the Bolsonaro government.
Sharing the new op-ed on Twitter Wednesday, Greenwald wrote that “it’s always more comfortable to speak about external politics than your family. But many others are enduring the same; it’s a vista for understanding Brazil.”
“Substantial media coverage over the last year, within Brazil and internationally, has been devoted to threats and attacks we each received, separately and together, due to our work,” the op-ed begins. “These incidents have been depicted, rightfully so, as reflective of the increasingly violent and anti-democratic climate prevailing in Brazil as a result of the far-right, authoritarian, dictatorship-supporting movement of President Jair Bolsonaro, which consolidated substantial power in the election held at the end of 2018.”
The piece offers a lengthy account of their year, starting with “when David entered congress in early 2019 after the only other openly LGBTQ+ congress member, Jean Wyllys, fled his seat and the country in fear of his life.” Miranda is now the only LGBTQ+ member in the lower house of the federal congress, which has “provoked countless and highly detailed death threats” toward their family from “the vitriolic anti-LGBTQ+ Bolsonaro movement.”
“That primal animus was enhanced by the fact that our public 15-year marriage and our two children serve as a living refutation of the false and toxic depiction of LGBTQ+ life as barren, unhappy, sickly and solitary, an anti-LGBTQ+ demonization campaign that is central to the Bolsonaro movement’s political identity,” the op-ed continues. The attacks on their family ramped up when Greenwald and The Intercept began reporting on the “Secret Brazil Archive” in June 2019, building up to the charges brought against the journalist last week.
However, the op-ed notes, their safety concerns preceded Bolsonaro’s 2018 election:
[The] sense of danger and political violence in our lives, and for many others in Brazil, began almost two years ago. On 14 March 2018, Marielle Franco—the LGBTQ+, black, favela-raised city councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro—was gunned down while riding in her car on the streets of Rio at roughly 9pm in a brutal political assassination. Franco was one of our family’s best friends as well as a rising political star, a vessel of hope to so many people marginalized for decades and who had no voice. The loss was a major trauma, still unhealed, for both the country and for our lives.
Franco was a member of David’s party, the leftwing Socialism and Liberty party (PSOL). David—also black, LGBTQ+ and raised in a violent favela as an orphan—was as unlikely as Franco to occupy political power in a country long plagued by severe inequality, racial inequities, and discrimination of all types. Because they shared the same causes of combating lethal police violence and inequality, they sat next to one another in the city council chamber. Her politically motivated murder at the age of 37 brought political violence into our lives as a lurking, terrorizing reality which has only intensified since then.
The piece goes on to address Bolsonaro’s political history, the rightward shift of elected officials in Brazil, the Bolsonaro family’s ties to a paramilitary gang that police believe assassinated Franco, and Miranda’s heated Twitter exchange with the Brazilian president shortly after the inauguration, which “instantly converted David into a new prime enemy of [the far-right] movement.”
“That Glenn had co-founded a growing and increasingly vocal Brazilian bureau of The Intercept in 2016 that was highly critical of the Bolsonaro campaign and then his presidency made us both visible adversaries of this newly empowered far-right movement,” the op-ed reads. “That we are a gay, interracial couple in a country governed by a virulently anti-LGBTQ+ movement made each of us separately, but especially together, a particularly reviled yet visible target of their wrath.”
“We significantly escalated security measures at our home, and our two newly adopted sons had to be driven back and forth to school by security agents,” the op-ed reveals. “We have received detailed death threats containing personal, non-public data available only to the state. Many have been directed at our two sons, sometimes with gruesome detail.” Due to the repeated attacks, “David has not left the house without armed security and an armored vehicle” since entering congress—a practice that Greenwald also had to adopt because of his reporting.
Noting that the charges against Greenwald defy a supreme court order barring investigations into him, the piece asserts that “the Bolsonaro movement seeks to prove that they are not limited by law or anything else. To prove that, they will defy court orders, ignore police investigations, ride roughshod over all other institutions—just as the military dictatorship did by decree, using violence, torture and murder of dissidents, ignoring of supreme court orders and summary removal of congress members who even minimally opposed them. The playbook they are using is as dark and horrifying as it is familiar and obvious.”
Because Brazil’s military junta didn’t end until 1985, the op-ed says, “we personally know many people who were imprisoned or exiled for years for their fight against the dictatorship. Many of their friends and comrades were murdered by the military regime while they fought for the cause of Brazilian democracy.”
“Those are the people who inspire us and so many like us in Bolsonaro’s Brazil who are confronting state repression to defend the democracy that so many people suffered so much to bring about,” the op-ed declares. “Demagogues and despots like Bolsonaro are a dime a dozen. They centrally rely on intimidation, fear, and the use of state repression to consolidate power. A refusal to give into that fear, but instead to join hands with those who intend to fight against it, is always the antidote to this toxin.”
“Because Glenn is a U.S. citizen with a valid U.S. passport, we could leave Brazil at any time. David and our sons would be entitled to automatic U.S. citizenship,” explains the piece. “But we have not done that and we never will. Brazil is the country we love and we intend to fight this repression, not flee from it. Brazil is an extraordinary country, unique in so many ways, and is easily worth fighting for. We could never in good conscience exploit the privileges we have to leave behind a country we love and the millions of people who are not able to leave.”
Main Image: Greenwald and Miranda | Elza Fiúza / Agência Brasil