Bolsonaro: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

John Oliver discusses Jair Bolsonaro, how he’s run Brazil as president, how far he might go to maintain power after the upcoming election, and, of course, nunchucks.
Bolsonaro: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 9 Episode 23
Aired on September 25, 2022

Main segment: 2022 Brazilian general election
Other segment: Martha’s Vineyard migrant crisis, Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico

* * *

♪ ♪

[Cheers and applause]

John: Welcome, welcome, welcome to “Last Week Tonight!” I’m John Oliver. Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a busy week, and a lot has happened. In Iran, there’ve been huge protests over the killing of a young woman after she was arrested by their morality police, we also learned that Adam Levine is as bad at sexting as he is at coming up with meaningful tattoos, and Joe Biden declared the pandemic over. Which isn’t just irresponsible, it’s complete bullshit. You can’t just declare something and make it a reality. If I declare the queen is alive that doesn’t make it true. We all know she’s in the afterlife now, looking up at Diana. But we’re going to start with Ron DeSantis, Florida governor and Playmobil figurine inspired by a detailed HR complaint. DeSantis made headlines recently, after doing this:

This morning, a surprising scene in Martha’s Vineyard. Two planes filled with about 50 migrants landing on the island.

50 Undocumented migrants, including several children, arriving in Martha’s Vineyard, flown in by Florida republican governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, an effort to turn the spotlight to immigration just two months before the midterm elections.

John: Yeah, it certainly was “a surprising scene on Martha’s Vineyard,” which, to be honest, sounds like a romance novel designed to make you cum pumpkin spice. And look: obviously, sending a group of migrants there was reckless, because Martha’s Vineyard isn’t set up with any of the key resources migrants need, unless for some reason they’re desperate for a fishmonger to over-describe what it was like to sell jackie o a pound of scallops in 1983. And if this seems like a stunt made for Fox News, you’re absolutely right — but it also may’ve been made by Fox News. Because just two months ago, Tucker Carlson did a segment pointing out the whiteness of Martha’s Vineyard and had this fun proposal:

They are begging for more diversity. Why not send migrants there, in huge numbers? Let’s start with 300,000 and move up from there.

John: Okay, first, Martha’s Vineyard is an island that has a year-round population under 20,000. Suggesting sending 300,000 there is a little like suggesting you let Tucker Carlson bring you to sexual completion — it isn’t just a disgusting idea, it’s a logistically impossible one. But it seems DeSantis just took that idea and ran with it. So I guess it’s true they say: good artists borrow, great artists steal, and racist governors get their ideas yelled at them by the human equivalent of the boat shoe found at the scene of a hazing death. The stunt was both grim and deeply cynical, especially given the migrants were reportedly lured there with empty promises of jobs and housing, and even handed brochures listing government assistance they were not eligible for. In fact, that brochure was so sloppily designed that, while it featured a flag for Massachusetts, that’s not the state’s actual flag. This is the real flag. That is just a fake flag they found from this post online made by somebody who said, and I quote, “the current one blows, so I made this one.” The Boston Globe actually tracked down the guy who made it, who said, “no one had seen this flag until some idiot staffer for DeSantis or whoever” stumbled across it, “I cannot fathom why they would use the wrong one,” adding, “this is all hilarious, although at the same time deeply sad, because the real story is asylum seekers being exploited and human trafficked.” Which is absolutely true. Also, how could Ron DeSantis not know it was the wrong flag? He spent three years at Harvard Law School, which is — correct me if I’m wrong — in fucking Massachusetts! I really hope DeSantis paid more attention to the law part of law school, especially as it seems like he might well need it, given that a Texas sheriff has opened a criminal investigation into the migrants’ trips to Martha’s Vineyard. And if you’re thinking, “why a Texas sheriff and not a Florida one?,” It turns out, for all DeSantis’s talk about the urgency of this issue for his voters, these migrants didn’t even come from his state. Why not? I’ll just let him explain.

The problem is is we’re not seeing mass movements of them into Florida, so you end up with a car with maybe two. And if we know that that’s illegal, and there’s someone that’s kinda smuggling, then committing crime, then you can do arrests, there have been drug seizures. But that’s not effective enough to stop the mass migration, but it’s just coming in onesie-twosies.

John: Okay, first; “onesie-twosies?” These are real people’s lives, not a baby’s fucking toes. But second, it seems, this huge problem for his state, mass migration, is actually so little of a problem, he had to borrow fifty migrants from a state halfway across the country. Still, credit where it’s due: nothing says “I’m against illegal immigration and human trafficking” quite like making fake documents to smuggle people across a border. And look: we could spend the rest of this show talking about DeSantis, and why he always looks like he’s wearing a suit “under” his suit. But there’s also an urgent crisis going on in Puerto Rico:

This morning, Puerto Rico in the dark after powerful winds from Fiona knocked out power to nearly everyone on the island.

In Utuado in the center of the island, this new metal bridge, built just four years ago after Hurricane Maria, was swept away like a twig.

John: Holy shit. That’s devastating. When you hear that something has been “swept away like a twig,” you expect that something to be Timothee Chalamet in a light breeze, not a large piece of infrastructure in a river. One remarkable thing about the current devastation in Puerto Rico is that, while it’s reminiscent of what happened there five years ago with Hurricane Maria, that made landfall as a category 4 storm, whereas Hurricane Fiona was just a category 1. And that speaks to the fact that the recovery from Maria has been a complete shambles, from the moment Trump flung paper towels at people, to right now. There’ve been unforgivable delays in strengthening infrastructure like the power grid, despite billions of federal dollars being allocated to it. And about the power grid: after years of mismanagement by the island’s publicly-owned utility, in 2021, a private company called Luma Energy took over operations. But incredibly, since then, things have managed to get even worse. Not only are outages now longer, at one point a hospital lost power for sixteen hours. And that was during normal weather. As for the head of Luma, in a congressional hearing last year, he didn’t seem especially concerned about how things were going.

How would you characterize Luma’s transition to managing Puerto Rico’s electrical grid so far, with 1 being a total disaster and 10 being a remarkable success?

When I look at it on balance, I — I would give us, y’know, a “b”. I think we have a lot to do.

Ok, so 1-10, 1-10, you would give yourself like a 6?

I’d give myself — I’d give us a 7.

A 7, okay. How many blackouts have been reported since Luma took over on June 1?

Uhhhh… The system has a very large number of outages, congresswoman. Both before and after–

Can you count them? Is it so big you can’t even keep track of them all?

Uhh, there are outages every single day.

John: Okay, that’s a terrible answer. First, you absolutely “should” be keeping track of the outages happening on your watch. Second, the question was based on a scale of one to ten and you answered “b.” And finally: a seven out of ten would be a 70% grade, but that’s actually a “c-minus.” So if I were to grade your ability to grade yourself, I’d give you a two out of ten, which — for the record — is an “f.” Honestly, I don’t know why you didn’t just leave the zoom immediately and blame it on a blackout. After all, you’re the CEO of Luma Energy, it would’ve been entirely believable. And while Luma’s repeatedly promised over the last year that things are improving, even before Fiona hit, there were signs of trouble. Just look what happened when the governor, Pedro Pierluisi spoke to discuss plans for the coming storm. You don’t need to know what he’s saying here — you just need to watch what happens.

[Speaking non-English language]

John: Not great. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact the power went out in the middle of his press conference about storm preparedness, or the fact that no one in the room seemed that surprised. The only way that could’ve been more ominous is if, when the lights came back on Michael Myers was standing right behind him. People have been understandably furious for a while now. There’ve been street protests with people making protest signs out of appliances that were ruined during power surges. And just watch this reaction at a Bad Bunny concert in San Juan, when he called Luma out.

Luma can go to hell.

[Cheers and applause]

John: Wow. It says a lot about how much people hate that company, that that elicited the kind of crowd response you’d normally expect when someone announces something like, “everyone gets a free car!” Or “Henry Kissinger has died!” Bad Bunny’s actually been trying to draw attention to Puerto Rico’s problems for a while now. In fact, just last Friday, he released a new music video for his song, “El Apagon,” which literally translates to “the blackout.” But around a minute into the video, there’s a pretty significant tonal shift. ♪ ♪

Puerto Rico keeps struggling with power outages that are leaving dozens of thousands of people without electricity. This explosion left the entire country without electricity back in April.

John: Yeah, Bad Bunny suckers you in with a song, and then hits you with, and this is true, a twenty-minute deep dive documentary featuring the reporting of a local investigative journalist. And it’s legitimately well done — there’s infographics of donations to politicians, and an explanation of act 22, the Puerto Rican law that lures wealthy investors to the island with the promise of no capital gains taxes. Honestly, the video’s sort of like this show, where you think you’re getting something fun before getting tricked into, essentially, watching homework the television show. Also like Bad Bunny, I too am young and hot. I’m young and I’m hot and going places, like my peer, bad bunny. We’re more similar than different. The point is, people in Puerto Rico are justifiably fed up, and are making it very clear that they’re not going to stand for this much longer.

You know that if Luma Energy doesn’t do what it should be doing, it better get ready. Because Puerto Ricans are nice people, but when we get irate, you better scramble to board a plane and say “bye-bye”.

John: Exactly. And look: if I’m the head of Luma, I don’t know exactly how nervous I should be right now, but on a scale of one to ten, I’d probably say “a shitload.” And now this.

* * *

And now: the queue to end all queues.

In London people are continuing to queue for hours to pay their respects to the queen who’s lying in a state at Westminster hold.

The late queen has done us proud. She’s brought the country together, she’s brought together the best British of all time. To speak of what I love about the q it’s a great equalizer.

Your job, class, age, your status, you line up with your fellow brits.

We didn’t used to be good at queuing, we were famous for rioting and cutting people’s heads off.

It’s become a gigantic human snake.

So many people turned up to pay to tribute.

If don’t people feel the urge to queue, what does it say about them?

This is the queue of all queue’s.

It’s the queue to end all queue.

No intention of joining the queue, you just got sucked into weight and such is the seductiveness of the queue.

* * *

John: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns Brazil. The only country whose flag lets a little circle wear a fancy sash. Isn’t that nice? The circle is all dressed up for its big day being on the flag. Brazil’s one of the largest democracies in the world, with more than 156 million people eligible to vote. And next Sunday, it’s having a massive election. We’ve mentioned Brazil’s elections on the show before, partly because campaign ads there can be spectacular, like this one, for a man currently running for state deputy:

I’m samurai taxi driver: you can find me around Pernambuco. 10554. ♪ ♪

John: Excellent. I don’t know anything about nunchucks. I don’t know if they’re historically a part of samurai taxi driver culture. And I don’t know if using your armpit so much is usually a part of it. But I will say, I’m impressed he spent so much time learning to use them, but zero time learning how to edit out the part of the video where he turns his phone off. Many elected positions are on the ballot in Brazil next Sunday, from governors to senators. But the key one is the office of president, where Jair Bolsonaro is running for reelection. You may remember, four years ago, we actually discussed his first presidential run. I assume. I don’t watch this show. But if you missed it: Bolsonaro’s a right-wing ex-military populist who, when in congress, told a female colleague, “I wouldn’t rape you, you’re not worth it,” has said “I would prefer my son to die in an accident” than to have him be gay, and loves making finger guns all the fucking time. Basically, he campaigned as a misogynistic homophobe who gestures like he runs a tech startup. But now he’s campaigning as an incumbent president, and he’s been drawing on all the perks of the office — including recently turning the 200th anniversary of Brazilian independence into a campaign rally for himself.

His rally in Brazil’s capital city Brasilia drew tens of thousands of supporters, and a military display of planes, parachutists, and tanks. Even the embalmed heart of monarch Dom Pedro I, who declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal 200 years ago. Was brought over from Europe to be on display.

John: wow. First, if you were wondering what Dom Pedro the first died of, it was probably his heart looking like that. But it’s true — they put a two-century-old heart on an air force plane and flew it to Brazil. It’s actually the first unnaturally preserved human body part to fly on a military jet since all of Tom Cruise. Bolsonaro’s main opponent is former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He was incredibly popular in office, but later got caught up in the international corruption investigation “operation car wash,” even landing in prison during Brazil’s last election. But his conviction’s since been annulled, and polls now consistently show him leading the race by a wide margin — about 10%. But the concerns in Brazil are that if, as seems likely, Bolsonaro loses, he won’t give up his office without a fight, and could even “follow Trump’s example in encouraging supporters to back a “tropical version” of the Capitol Riot.” Which isn’t great. Although — for the record — you really don’t have to use the word “tropical” to describe an insurrection just because you’re talking about Latin America. Especially because “tropical riot” sounds like a mountain dew flavor that was recalled for blinding several children. And Bolsonaro’s version of January 6 could be a lot more destructive than Trump’s, given that he’s done a lot to cultivate support within the military. Which makes it more than a little concerning when he stands in front of his supporters and says things like this:

There are only three alternatives for me: to be arrested, to be killed, or to be victorious. And I tell those scumbags, I will never go to jail.

John: Okay, that’s never a good omen. No one says that before doing something pleasant. No one says their options are “victory, prison or death” before they, say, march into “the great British bake off” tent for biscuit week. Not even the German guy, and honestly, I was kind of expecting that from him. The first round of the election is next Sunday, and if no one wins more than 50% of the vote, it’ll go to a second round on October 30 — although, worryingly, Bolsonaro has said that if he doesn’t win outright next Sunday, receiving at least 60% of the votes, something quote “abnormal” took place. So if one of the world’s biggest democracies seems like it might be barreling towards a cliff, tonight, let’s talk about Jair Bolsonaro, the man with his foot planted firmly on the gas. And let’s start with the fact that, unfortunately, he’s governed pretty much exactly how he said he was going to. He’s followed through on a big campaign promise to make guns more freely available in Brazil, loosening gun laws to the point that, since he took office, the number of guns in private hands has doubled to nearly 2 million, despite polls showing the majority of Brazilians are against making the sale and possession of weapons easier. So he’s giving people something they didn’t ask for and don’t want. Which I believe is also the job description for the head of original programming at Netflix. But much more than that, Bolsonaro’s been an absolute disaster for the Amazon, a rainforest that’s critical for Brazil and, y’know, the planet earth. He’s loosened regulations to expand logging and mining there, and massively scaled back protections and enforcement. And almost immediately after he took office, conditions deteriorated.

Under Bolsonaro, deforestation is at its highest point in a decade, with an area 10 times the size of New York City destroyed through October this year. And in august, there was an average of 1,000 fires every day.

John: Wow, a thousand fires a day. That is so many fires! If you asked me what happens in the amazon a thousand times a day, my first guess would be capybaras fucking. Self explanatory. My second would be frog birthday parties. Statistically, there’s gotta be at least 5000 of them with a birthday every day and we have to assume that some combine parties for convenience and others just didn’t want to have a big thing this year. But exactly zero of my guesses would be ‘fires’. These fires are often part of illegal deforestation, to clear areas for industrial uses — deforestation, incidentally, which can encroach on land where indigenous people live. And they’ve been forced to confront these loggers, ranchers, and miners on their own, which can be both very dangerous, and deeply dispiriting.

When we confront them they say, “don’t you watch the news? Bolsonaro said that when he won we could take wood from indigenous land.” This is what they say to us.

John: Right. It’s got to be tough to fight someone taking your stuff when they’ve essentially got permission from the most powerful person in the country. If I stole your wallets and then played a clip of Biden saying, “I encourage you to rob your audience members, John. Now I gotta go, I need to go say ten wrong things in a row on ’60 minutes,'” there wouldn’t be much you could do. The point is, the destruction of the Amazon under Bolsonaro has been devastating. In fact, while worldwide greenhouse gas emissions plummeted by almost 7% in 2020, due to the pandemic, Brazil’s emissions actually grew by nearly 10%. And Bolsonaro’s added insult to injury, claiming those fires in the Amazon were false flags, accusing outsiders of being part of a nefarious plot to seize Brazil’s jungles, and directly accusing Leonardo DiCaprio of funding arson in the Amazon. Which is absurd! Where would Leo find the time to do that between his busy film schedule, his daily yacht fuck, and having a big laugh at every tweet about his may December love life. “Man, the internet got me again!” Leo shouts to the richest people on the planet over a bottle of wine that costs more than your rent. But perhaps the defining catastrophe of Bolsonaro’s presidency has been his handling of the Covid pandemic. Brazil has suffered massively — over 34 million cases, and over 685,000 deaths. And right from the start, he refused to take it seriously, initially dismissing Covid as “a little flu,” and then, once the death toll started rising, shrugging off responsibility in the most dickish possible way.

Everything is about the pandemic nowadays. We have got to stop with this. I’m sorry for the dead. I’m sorry, but we’re all going to die one day. Everybody here is going to die. We have to stop being a country of sissies.

John: Wow. That is monumentally shitty. I gotta say — America’s Covid response left a lot to be desired, but at least the CDC’s slogan was never “what are you complaining about, death comes for all of us, man up and die in a hole.” But Bolsonaro didn’t just abdicate responsibility for fighting Covid, he actively made it worse, attacking governors and anyone else who promoted shutdowns or social distancing. In fact, to the extent that lockdown orders were issued at all in Brazilian cities, they sometimes came from very surprising places.

The situation has become so serious that the drug gangs that rule this slum and other slums in Rio de Janeiro have decreed a lockdown, and they have forbidden all clandestine parties from happening.

John: It’s true! Drug gangs ended up being more responsible when it came to Covid than the Brazilian government! Although, let’s not give them too much credit for banning parties — you know what’s pretty appealing when you’re stuck inside with nothing to do and nowhere to go? Drugs. And what’s so frustrating is that Brazil was better-positioned than many other countries to handle Covid. It has a long history of successful inoculation drives, starring their beloved vaccine mascot, Ze Gotinha, who, at best, looks like a super sperm and at worst, a Klan member all dressed up for jazzercise. And yet, Bolsonaro not only sowed doubts about the efficacy of vaccines, he delayed ordering doses for months. In fact, last year, Pfizer apparently reached out to the Brazilian government 81 times, trying to set up a deal to provide doses of vaccines, but most of the time got no answer. And some of those emails from Pfizer were just sad. One read: hope all is well with you! I just wanted to confirm that you received yesterday a communication sent on behalf of the president of Pfizer, with the updated proposal of a possible supply of Covid-19 vaccines. Will you let me know?” And come on, Pfizer! If you’re getting ghosted, you gotta be more blunt than that. Something like “attention dickheads: your country has Covid, we have a vaccine, let’s do this thing.” Or even: “earth to president bitch: stop subtweeting Leonardo DiCaprio and answer your fucking phone.” And the thing is, it’s not like Brazilians didn’t want vaccines — proven by the fact that, once they finally became available, virtually 100% of the adult populations in Rio and Sao Paulo got fully vaccinated, a number no American city has hit. And the Covid debacle would be enough for people to be done with Bolsonaro, but there’s so much more — from his open despite running on an anticorruption platform, they’ve been, engulfed in a growing number of gramm criminal investigations. Including, at one point, threatening to punch a reporter in the face, to the fact that, despite running on an anti-corruption platform four years ago, he’s now had multiple allegations leveled against him and his family. It’s no wonder he’s trailing in the polls. Which is not to say that Bolsonaro doesn’t have supporters — because he does, and they can be intense.

Thousands of supporters lined up in front of this gym next to Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracanã football stadium. Inside, crowds wearing the colors of the Brazilian flag cheer for president Jair Bolsonaro, calling him the messiah and the myth.

John: I love that man. I love his outfit. I love his facepaint. I love the way he kind of looks like the hulk losing his shit at a green bay packers game. But what I love most of all is what appears to be a security guard over his shoulder, scanning the crowd for threats, while looking everywhere but at the bright green man in front of him, screaming so hard he might explode. And Bolsonaro’s been very deliberately laying the groundwork with his supporters for an eventual Trump-style refusal to accept the election results — even pointing to our last election as a cautionary tale for Brazilians.

What happened in the American elections. Basically, the problem, the cause of this crisis was the lack of trust in the vote.

There were people who voted 3, 4 times. Dead people voted. It was a mess.

John: Great, so that’s the January 6th op-ed absolutely no one needed, from the man no one wanted to hear it from, and from the camera angle absolutely no one deserves. He’s saying his stupid opinions out loud, you really don’t have to go hunting for them right up his nostrils. Bolsonaro’s been going out of his way to undermine faith in Brazil’s election system, suggesting judges and officials are trying to sabotage his reelection, and fearmongering about the country’s electronic voting machines — machines, incidentally, which are even the subject of ASMR election psa’s like this one:

Electronic ballot box ASMR. Do you still have questions about the elections? We’re here to make things simple. And today’s question is: why vote?

John: Horny. You know, every day there are millions of people experiencing their own personal sexual awakenings, and I’m guessing today at least one of them discovered that softly fondling Brazilian voting machines is apparently their thing. Welcome to the rest of your life. But Brazil’s voting machines aren’t just quietly erotic, they’re also widely seen as secure. They are not connected to the internet, which makes them all but impossible to hack. And it’s worth knowing that, since their introduction in 1996, authorities have never found any evidence of widespread fraud. Yet Bolsanaro’s repeatedly attacked the machines as crooked, claiming his margin of victory in 2018 actually should have been larger. He even subjected a room full of diplomats to a 45-minute Powerpoint presentation accusing Brazil’s elections of being rigged. And that’s incredibly dangerous, partly because people will agree to anything if you threaten them with a 45-minute Powerpoint presentation. In our office, we have an email security seminar once a year, and this year I broke my laptop with a hammer just so I could claim it didn’t apply to me. It was the right call and I’d do it again. And look: I don’t want to waste time knocking down every one of Bolsonaro’s complaints, because it’s pretty clear that in raising these objections in the run-up to the election, his intention isn’t to maximize the security of the vote, but to maximize the amount of distrust that people have in it. And his supporters have been listening to his bullshit.

If the elections are fair, he wins in the first round, only in the first round.

He will only lose the election if there is fraud, and the people will take to the streets to stop that from happening.

John: See, that’s interesting, because if you look at that man you’d think, “he loves Brazil.” But if you “listen” to him, you’d learn “he’s willing to burn his country to the ground based on a flimsily-laid conspiracy theory.” But I guess that duality is just part of the boundless mystery and contradiction that makes human beings the absolute worst. And given Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, it’s no wonder there’ve already been outbreaks of violence. One Lula supporter was killed when a Bolsonaro supporter invaded his Lula-themed birthday party and shot him, while shouting that “all PT partisans” — that is, supporters of Lula’s political party — “will die.” So things are very tense right now in Brazil — and that’s before you consider just how close Bolsonaro is to the armed forces there. Not only is he ex-military, and not only has he expressed admiration for the military dictatorship that ran the country until 1985, his government is also heavily stocked with military personnel. And some leaders of Brazil’s armed forces are now echoing his doubts about the integrity of the elections. All of which has led some in Brazil to understandably worry about what lies ahead.

This flirting of president Bolsonaro with a coup is not a recent thing it’s an old thing. The people who support him are willing to do anything. Just like the supporters of president Donald Trump when the capitol was invaded. I have no doubt, I have even written about it, that here in Brazil, we will have a tragic, dramatic repetition of what happened there.

John: Yeah, except, crucially, it could be much worse there — because luckily for us, Trump’s allies were generally limited to a shirtless man in a fur hat, a perpetually-hoarse pillow baron, and some of his dumber children. But Bolsonaro has significant military support, and there is some question of what they might do in the event of an uprising. Which raises the stakes significantly. Generally, when someone threatens democracy it’s a lot easier to say “you and what army?” When you’re absolutely certain that person doesn’t have an actual army behind them. The point is, for Brazil, there’s a lot on the line here. And right now, it seems the most likely scenario is that no one will win outright next Sunday, meaning both Bolsonaro and Lula head to a run-off on October 30. But the weeks ahead could be extremely nerve-racking. And the fact is, if Bolsonaro eventually loses and chooses to fight the results, it’s going to test the strength of Brazil’s relatively young democracy. So to the people there who are worried right now, let me address you in the two languages that I know you’ll understand: Portuguese and of course the language of the chuck. So please — and bear with me. Ola, Brasil. Sou o apresentador samurai. Sinto muito pelo que voces estao passando nesse momento. Nossos pensamentos estarao com voces nas proximas semanas. Boa sorte.

[Cheers and applause]

That’s our show, thank you so much for watching. We will see you next week. Good night!

[Cheers and applause]

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪


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