We interviewed Marcello Pablito, leader of the Brazilian black people’s organization Quilombo Vermelho, about the murder of capoeira master Moa do Katendê at the hands of a Bolsonaro supporter.
Sunday, October 7, will be remembered not only for the victory of the extreme right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the first round of the presidential elections in Brazil, but also for the cowardly and brutal murder of Romualdo Rosário da Costa, Master Moa Katendê, in the city of Salvador de Bahia, when he was stabbed 12 times by a follower of the PSL (Social Liberal Party) candidate.
Could you tell us in what context the Master Moa Katendê was murdered?
Master Moa do Katendê, who was 63 years old, was one of the most prominent capoeira masters in the country. He founded the historic Afro block Afoxé Badauê in Salvador and was an activist for the defense and promotion of black culture.
The person who murdered him, Paulo Sérgio Ferreira de Santana, confessed to the Office of Public Security of Bahia that the attack had been politically motivated because the Master had criticized Bolsonaro and defended Haddad’s candidacy. This happened a few hours after the voting drew to a close in the first round of the presidential race, which Bolsonaro won with 46.03% of the votes while Haddad garnered 29.28% of the votes.
It is important to note that the elections took place during the continuation of the institutional coup, under the supervision of the armed forces and manipulated by the judicial branch with Lula’s arbitrary incarceration. His detention was clearly aimed at preventing him from running in the elections, when he was leading the polls with nearly 40% of the votes in the first half of the year. Almost one and a half million voters in the Northeast region were also prevented from voting. The mass media, the agricultural sector, and pro-coup businessmen and politicians came out in defense of Bolsonaro as Haddad began to rise in the polls, after the collapse of Alckmin’s candidacy.
It is truly symbolic that the country’s extreme political polarization and the strengthening of the fiercely neoliberal, racist, homophobic, sexist, and pro-slavery extreme right materialized in the murder of one of the most renowned capoeira masters, one of the strongest symbols of black culture and the heroic struggle of black people in Brazil, and in Bahia, one of the states with the highest concentration of black people in the entire country.
Is Bolsonaro’s racist rhetoric fueling this kind of attacks by his followers?
Yes, the 12 stab-wounds to Maestro Moa’s body came directly from the mouth of Bolsonaro, his party, and his allies, who promote hatred against blacks, northeasterners, and immigrants. During his 28-year tenure in the Lower House of Congress, he made a career out of his defense of the dictatorship, torture, and the suppression of workers’ rights, with his sexist positions and profound hatred for black people. Bolsonaro is a modern-day representation of slave masters.
The racism that he expresses is aimed at advancing a pro-slavery model for the country, with complete subordination to imperialism, where blacks, who have the worst jobs and receive the lowest wages, are subject to even greater exploitation to increase the profits of big capitalists.
They spread hate speech in order to further these attacks. His candidate for Vice President, General Hamilton Mourão, a symbol of the Armed Forces, had made a profoundly racist statement the day before, associating white skin with beauty. After the murder, Bolsonaro cynically claimed to have no connection with the case and said that he was the victim of the country’s situation.
Those 12 stab-wounds were a clear message, which Bolsonaro wants to legitimize. They were a direct attack against black people who are mobilizing against racism, in defense of their culture and for better living conditions.
This is not new. Our country has a rich history of black people who rebelled against slavery, murdering slave masters who owned sugar factories, as well as their thugs, in their struggle for freedom. They organized revolts, rebellions, and set up thousands of settlements for escaped slaves called quilombos. They struck fear into the hearts of the colonial and imperial elites, and their tradition converged with the emergence of the working class in Brazil.
What do you think the response has to be against this advance of the extreme right?
First of all, our group supports all workers and youth who feel the need to express their hatred for Bolsonaro at the polls as well, but we know that in order to defeat the extreme right we cannot put our faith in the electoral process and in the alliances formed by the PT (Workers’ Party), which cleared the way for the coup and the strengthening of the right.
The black people of Brazil have resisted bravely on the front lines of the class struggle, and our work is inspired by those experiences. As long as there is capitalism there will be black resistance, and this infuriates Bolsonaro and his allies. Master Moa was killed because that history, that strength, flowed through his veins. It is for that tradition of struggle, resistance, and bravery of the black people of Brazil that Bolsonaro hates us.
At the same time, Bolsonaro’s racist positions are the flip side of his extremely neoliberal and pro-imperialist economic project. The PSL spreads hatred for black people with the aim of breaking us so that they can launch their attacks and because they’re afraid of what black people are capable of when they start mobilizing against oppression and exploitation. They’re afraid that our spirit of struggle will awaken workers all over the country, and they fear their ability to represent the interests of our entire class.
This is why it is in our class struggle that we will defeat Bolsonaro and his allies, with black people at the forefront of our movement. Because we have not forgotten Marielle, we will not forget Master Moa. We will avenge them.