Killer Clowns: Bolsonaro accuses Greenwald of felony – can’t explain why

Right wing extremist President Jair Bolsonaro accused Glenn Greenwald of committing a felony but, in a scene captured on the Government’s TV Brasil, his Press Secretary, General Otávio Rego Barros, fails to explain what the crime committed was and, instead, tries to stare down the journalist who asks about it.

By Brian Mier

In a recent Guardian Op Ed peice George Monbiot calls the new wave of buffoonish nationalist leaders such as Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro, “killer clowns” who distract us and deflect attention away from their oligarch sponsors as they rob us blind. Unlike for-profit media companies, Brasil Wire is not trying to capitalize on the daily “clown show” of ridiculous statements or threats by our sub-fascist President and the pre-englightenment opportunists he surrounds himself with, because it distracts from the human and labor rights setbacks which are causing massive increases in bloodshed, poverty, hunger and homelessness in Brazil. While the following event, which happened yesterday during a press conference in Brasilia, could possibly be labeled as one of these types of distractions, I believe it is still worth speaking about due to the threat that it represents against freedom of the press.

On Tuesday, July 30, we ran an article by Antonio Martins about the failure of the so called “table-turning operation” initiated by disgraced Justice Minister and former Lava Jato judge Sérgio Moro, now proven in a series of Telegram leaks to have sabotaged last year’s presidential elections in favor of his new boss in exchange for a cabinet post. When the Intercept first started leaking the Telegram chats which show rampant corruption and criminal collusion, Sérgio Moro flew up to the US, for meetings with American intelligence agencies. Upon his return, he announced that they had arrested the “hackers” who leaked social media conversations to Greenwald – 4 rural rich kids led by a DJ who is connected to the neofascist DEM party.

As veteran journalist Janio de Freitas pointed out, the damage control operation was a complete flop, easily disproved by Greenwald, who shared conversations with the whistle-blower to Veja Magazine. Furthermore, in announcing that he had destroyed the evidence Sérgio Moro publicly admitted to committing felony obstruction of justice, a fact which was immediately drawn attention to by Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello.

All this did not stop President Bolsonaro from accusing Greenwald of committing a felony. But during a press conference about it yesterday (July 30), his Press Secretary, General Otávio Rego Barros, was unable to explain what the crime was. As the linked video shows, when asked about it by Guilherme Mazieiro a journalist from UOL, he became visibly flustered and tried to stare him down. Coming from a man who entered the military during a bloody dictatorship which tortured and assassinated journalists, the long, menacing stare can be viewed as a threat.


Guilherme Mazieiro: Good evening Mr. Press Secretary, I’m Guilherme Mazieiro from UOL.

Gen. Otávio Rego Barros: How are you?

Mazieiro: OK. I have two questions on things which are not clear to me. Regarding Glenn, the President said that he committed a crime. I want to know exactly what crime he committed and on the basis of what actions.

Barros: Is there any doubt about the crime?

Mazieiro: Yes. I have one. What was the crime?

Barros: About the crime of invasion that was committed?

Mazieiro: About the journalist.

Barros: The President has no doubts about this. I don’t think anyone has any doubts about this.

Mazieiro: I want to know what crime the journalist committed.

Barros: I repeat myself, is there any doubt that a crime has been committed?

Mazieiro: Can you tell me what it was? This is my question.

Barros: This is my response

Mazieiro: But what was the crime?

Barros: Next question please

Mazieiro: I’m sorry Mr. Secretary but it’s not clear. What is the crime that the journalist committed?

Barros: Let’s read it then. The President has announced that the understanding of this action by the hackers has, “the goal of damaging Lava Jato, Minister Sérgio Moro, my image, and to disqualify the government”. And he emphasizes that tapping a telephone is a “crime, period.” The President is not putting freedom of the press in check in any way.

Mazieiro: Mr. Secretary, when he says “hackers” is he saying that the journalist acted as a hacker?

Barros: You have to understand the entire context.

Mazieiro: I’m sorry Mr. Secretary. It’s not clear.

[long, menacing stare]

Barros: The personal view of the President is that which I just finished announcing. As I said, it is the view of the President.


By Brian Mier

Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.