The rise of ’03’: Bolsonaro’s third son a key link in Trump’s inner circle

When Steve Bannon described Brazil’s 2022 presidential election as “the most important ever in South America”, Trump’s former adviser had a man who was close to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – his son Eduardo. .

Introduced by Bannon as “Trump’s third son from the tropics” at an event in South Dakota last year, Eduardo has become his father’s trusted international envoy and ideologue, forming close ties with foreign conservative allies such as the Trump family. Huh.

With Jair Bolsonaro facing an uphill battle to win a second term in October, considered a crucial test for democracy in Latin America’s largest country, Eduardo is questioning Brazil’s electronic voting system and casting doubt on the Supreme Court. joined in with his father.

The leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a two-time former president, is leading by a wide margin in almost all elections, but Eduardo believes the race is “tied”.

“I don’t trust elections,” he says in his cramped MP’s office in Brasilia.

Eduardo Bolsonaro left with his father Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia
Eduardo Bolsonaro, moved in with his father, Jair. In 2019 the president tried to name ’03’ as Brazil’s ambassador to Washington, but was forced to back down © Sergio Lima / AFP / Getty Images

Nicknamed “03” by his father in reference to his older brothers, Senator Flavio and Rio counselor Carlos, Eduardo initially shied away from politics. He served in Brazil’s federal police before winning the So Paulo congressional seat in 2014 at the age of 30.

“We spent about $10,000 and I got elected,” he says in a rare interview. “It was really lucky.” Four years later he set an electoral record, winning the highest number of votes of any lower house deputy, 1.84mn.

Eduardo comes across as friendly and polite, but his remarks are not always charitable. He spends at least as much time attacking the Supreme Court as he takes on his father’s main rival for the presidency.

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He says Justice is “fighting” against his father by intervening “all the time” on Lula’s side.

With a mandate wider than many global peers, Brazil’s top legal body can open its own investigation as well as judge appeals. Many Brazilians see the court as a link to democracy. But for Bolsonaro, his sons, and the country’s right wing, it represents a left-wing establishment opposing the president’s conservatism.

Eduardo said, “In a dictatorship they shut down the press, jail journalists, deport people, arrest the presidents of parties, arrest politicians.” “What I said is happening in Brazil but no [at] hands of President Bolsonaro, [at] in the hands of the Supreme Court.”

He cited Daniele Silveira, a former military policeman. bolsonarista Congressman, who became a celebrity for a hard reason. The Supreme Court sentenced Silveira to nearly nine years in prison in April after the politician threatened justices, including Alexandre de Moraes, in an online post. One said: “People need to go to the Supreme Court, grab De Moraes by the throat and throw his little egg head in the trash.”

Eduardo did not condemn Silveira and described the Supreme Court’s behavior as “disgusting”. De Moraes “Say He’s The Hunt, He” [makes] charges and he judges the case. , , So it’s a unique system that we have here in Brazil.” His father ordered a presidential pardon for Silveira.

Eduardo’s command of English was achieved during a work exchange program in America, and his ideological beliefs helped him to build a bridge between Bolsonaro and his allies abroad. The president tried to nominate his son as Brazil’s ambassador to Washington in 2019, but withdrew after opposition from Congress.

Jair Bolsonaro with Donald Trump at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence
Donald Trump welcomes Jair Bolsonaro at the Mar-a-Lago residence of the then US President in May 2020 © Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Eduardo says he admires Trump “very” and the sentiment appears to be mutual. On the wall of his office is a framed copy of Eduardo’s Wikipedia entry with the former US President’s handwritten endorsement: “Eduardo, you are great. Big statement on your wonderful father coming soon – good luck, Donald.

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“He has a unique gift for channeling America’s conservative movement with a Brazilian twist,” said Gerald Brant, a US-based financier close to the Bolsonaro family. “He will take his father’s position far away.”

Eduardo was in Washington on January 6 during an attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, but declined to comment on the rebellion, saying it was “an internal issue” for Americans. He has since held further meetings with members and aides of the Trump family, including Bannon at last August’s South Dakota convention.

Tom Shannon, a former senior State Department official specializing in Latin America, said he understood that Eduardo “looked very closely on January 6 to understand what went wrong and why Trump was unsuccessful”.

“The real takeaway for him was that Trump was relying on the crowd to succeed,” Shannon said. “They believe . . . they need institutional support, they need armed forces.”

President Bolsonaro’s attacks on the repeated electronic ballot at the ambassadors’ meeting in July have prompted the Biden administration to express support for Brazil’s election system.

“We are confident that Brazil’s next election result will reflect the will of the electorate,” a senior State Department official said.

The president has claimed that computerized ballot machines are vulnerable to fraud and called on the military to oversee parallel counting.

Eduardo avoids the question of what he and his father can do if the voting system is not changed and Jair loses the election. “I think they’ll improve [the voting system],” he says. “Everything else is futuristic thinking. , , i don’t know if [our supporters will] Go on the streets.”

Eduardo Bolsonaro's wife Heloisa shared an Instagram photo with a .38 caliber revolver birthday cake celebrating Eduardo's 38th birthday this month
Eduardo Bolsonaro’s wife Heloissa shared an Instagram photo with a .38 caliber revolver birthday cake celebrating Eduardo’s 38th birthday this month © Instagram

The prospect of violent protests worries the authorities. But Eduardo — whose office is adorned with toy firearm replicas and what he calls “Gun Safety Rule #1: Carry One” — believes gun ownership, which has quadrupled during his father’s tenure, has led to Brazil. has been made safe. He worries that Lula will choke on firearms.

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“Only dictators take people’s guns because they think people are a threat,” he says. “We think the other way around and want to give people the possibility to protect themselves and their assets.”

For ’03, his father’s defense of such independence defines his presidency and makes the case for his re-election. “He was sacrificing his personal life to give freedom to the Brazilian people . . . He is a freedom fighter,” says Eduardo.

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