Death of a right-wing Brazilian philosopher, provocateur

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Olavo de Carvalho, a leading figure in Brazil’s conservative movement celebrated by worshipers and hated by critics, has died, according to a statement posted Tuesday on his official Twitter profile. He was 74 years old.

De Carvalho died Monday night in Virginia, where he had lived for more than a decade, the family statement said.

The statement did not mention the cause of death, but Brazilian media, including the O Globo newspaper, widely reported that the thinker was diagnosed with COVID-19 on January 16. His daughter, who publicly disagreed with him, said on her Twitter account that he died of the disease.

De Carvalho’s books and online courses helped reinvigorate the country’s right wing ahead of the 2018 presidential election when he called on his supporters to support then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

He became a deeply divisive figure, exalted by parts of the right who saw him as a clear-eyed philosopher, and despised by much of the left and the intellectual elite. He has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 and used social media to promote conspiracy theories and spread skepticism about the need for vaccines to end the pandemic.

Bolsonaro was a staunch supporter of Carvalho, even displaying one of his books during his victory speech on election night in 2018. On Tuesday, the president mourned the loss of “one of history’s greatest thinkers of our country”.

“Olavo was a giant in the struggle for freedom and a beacon for millions of Brazilians. His example and his teachings will mark us forever,” Bolsonaro said. Bolsonaro’s official government Twitter profile also praised his “monumental legacy”.

De Carvalho published several books outlining his ideology, tirelessly warning against the domination of the political left and against “cultural Marxism”. He argued that the media, universities, scientists and artists had imposed communist ideology on the nation.

Much like Bolsonaro, who spent nearly three decades preaching his conservative ideas to small audiences as a federal lawmaker, de Carvalho has long remained a fringe figure.

But with Bolsonaro’s victory in 2018, his thinking penetrated the highest levels of government, particularly the ministries of education and foreign affairs. Several cabinet ministers and other government appointees proudly announced their intellectual debt to the conservative guru, earning them the nickname “Olavistas”. Many have since left government and Carvalho’s influence has waned, at least in public discourse.

Since the start of the pandemic, de Carvalho has railed against those seeking to introduce restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, measures which Bolsonaro has also opposed.

In July 2020, months after the virus had spread globally and killed hundreds of thousands of people, de Carvalho asked on Twitter: “When will the so-called ‘conservatives’ stop using the term “pandemic”?

Following news of his death, legions of worshipers mourned his demise on social media, while some of his opponents cheered his demise.

His daughter wrote on Twitter: “May God forgive him for all the wrongs he has done.”

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