Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends an inauguration ceremony for new judges of Brazil's Superior Court of Justice in Brasilia. Photo by: Reuters/Adriano Machado

Amid conservatism, Brazil is witnessing a rise in the number of neo-Nazi groups.

Hours before a social gathering for Haitian immigrants was to take place in Itajai in Santa Catarina in November 2022, event organizer Andrea Muller got a threatening message.

Reuters reported that the subject line of the email by an anonymous sender read, "Cancel the Haiti exhibition or we will commit a massacre."

The person wrote that Santa Catarina, which is a southern Brazilian state, is a land of "white people, for white people."

The email sender signed it off with the Nazi salute "Sieg Heil."

The event went ahead with no problems though cops were present at the venue. Still, the email, which Santa Catarina cops are still investigating, suggests a small but rising number of cases of neo-Nazism in Brazil. They have shot up as far-right politics flourished during former President Jair Bolsonaro's term that lasted from 2019 to early 2023.

The ex-President, who is a former army captain, was widely slammed for defending Brazil's military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. He was also criticized for his anti-democratic attacks on Brazil's voting system in the 2022 election.

The number of probes launched into alleged incitement of neo-Nazism in the country had increased since 2019, said Brazil's Federal Police. They noticed a "significant increase" this year.

Cops said that 21 investigations into the alleged manufacture, sale and distribution of swastikas "for the purpose of propagating Nazism" have been launched in the last few months. It is up from just one in 2018, the year that Bolsonaro was elected to be the President.

Some experts said that these figures have not captured the nationwide scale of the problem.

After a man with an axe killed four kids at a Santa Catarina kindergarten in April, Justice Minister Flavio Dino ordered cops to investigate neo-Nazi organizations that were possibly operating across state lines.

In two previous school attacks in Brazil this year, perpetrators wore arm bands with Nazi swastikas.

National Jewish Association CONIB said that it had noticed "an unprecedented increase in the number of extremist groups, the majority of which are openly neo-Nazis" in Brazil.

According to NBC News, researchers at Sao Paulo state's Unicamp University have tracked over a 10-fold increase in the number of neo-Nazi cells in the country since 2015.

The researchers said that Bolsonaro had "fueled" the rise of groups like these with his "inflammatory" speeches.

Neo-Nazism is a growing problem, said Guilherme Franco de Andrade. He is an expert on the far right at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil. But he didn't pin it all on Bolsonaro. He said that more than the former President, its growth was more likely linked to growing conservatism after years of leftist administrations.

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