Brrrrrum. The group of Harley Davidson arrives at the concentration with a serious purr. On Darío Gabriel’s motorcycle, one of the newcomers, there are no more Brazilian flags. It has two small ones in the back, one in front, and one more covers the luggage rack. Under his leather jacket, he also wears a yellow T-shirt with the face of far-right Jair Bolsonaro, current president and candidate for re-election. “There were many years of socialism. He raised the flag and patriotism was reborn,” he says. One day before the vote, the motorcycle this Saturday in the north of São Paulo has allowed Bolsonaro to receive the warmth of one of his most loyal bases, the bikers.
The beginning of this Bolsonarist tradition occurred spontaneously. Darío Gabriel tells that one day the president’s followers discovered that he had the habit of going on his motorcycle around the presidential palace in Brasilia to clear his head. Some began to accompany him and he liked the idea. Since then, his tours of the States have often been accompanied by motorcycle tours. In some he has managed to gather thousands of people. “It’s like a game and there’s a good atmosphere. We all know each other,” says Gabriel, owner of a hair dryer factory and declared enemy of unions.
So far this campaign, Bolsonaro has organized almost twenty motorcycles. One of its advantages is that the feeling of being full is greater than in a concentration of people. You also don’t have to answer awkward questions from journalists or make long speeches. It is to arrive and give each other hugs among this mostly male audience that adores him. Bolsonaro has repaid the loyalty of motorists and drivers well. In 2020, he passed a law that reduced penalties for infractions and extended the validity of driver’s licenses. Recently, he announced aid for gasoline for taxi and truck drivers.
The motorcycle it also has a political component. In 2021, in the midst of a pandemic, Bolsonaro multiplied his appearances on the back of the motorcycle. He served him to claim “the freedom” of citizens against the mobility restrictions imposed by state governments to try to contain contagion. On three occasions, the extreme right-winger was sanctioned by the São Paulo authorities for not wearing a mask.
Bikers share with the president a taste for fake news and ivermectin, a drug that was promoted by Bolsonaro to treat covid-19 without scientific evidence. A member of the same biker club as Gabriel and a former punk, Marcos Detício, 55, says he took some ivermectin pills and felt great the next day. “Have you seen that study from Japan that says it’s even better than vaccines?” he asks this journalist. Lately, what Detício is worried about is that the Superior Electoral Court will “steal the elections” from Bolsonaro. “They wanted to ban us from going to vote with the green and yellow shirt,” he says, citing another fake news that is very much in vogue these days.
Nobody in the rally can believe that the candidate is 14 points behind Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls. Many mention with pleasure a possible intervention by the Army to bring order if Bolsonaro loses. In the first rows, Humberto Alves, owner of a huge motorized tricycle with space for three people, is confident of a victory for the far-right in the first round. What he likes most about him is that he is “strong”, an idea that he completes by closing his fist. “If he doesn’t win, there will be war, there will be blood. to the thieves [de elecciones] we have to eliminate them”, assures this 64-year-old mechanic. The leather jacket he wears has Our Lady of Aparecida, patron saint of Brazil, embroidered on it. Sewn to the side of it, another piece of cloth reads: “May God make the steering wheel of motorcycles his arms.”
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Brrrrrrum. Concentrated bikes want to start. It seems that Bolsonaro is already approaching. The president gets out of a white car surrounded by bodyguards. he takes selfie with the bikers, amid shouts of “God above all, Brazil above all”, his motto from the previous campaign. The one in this one is “God, country, family and freedom”. Then he scrambles onto the first moto in line, gives the victory sign and heads off for a decisive weekend. No helmet.
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