It was probably inevitable that Olavo de Carvalho’s death would be surrounded by ambiguity, speculation and accusations. The Brazilian conspiracy believer, who was also considered President Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing guru, died on Monday evening near his home in the US state of Virginia.
Carvalho was 74 years old, what he died of is not entirely clear, but at the same time this is also not entirely irrelevant, after all, the self-proclaimed philosopher had recently appeared above all as a radical corona denier. The virus is little more than “a little horror story,” Carvalho explained recently, told to scare people.
In mid-January, he probably contracted the pathogen himself. While his doctor explained there is no connection between the Covid infection and the death of Carvalho, one of his daughters, who has long since broken with him, claims the opposite: “Olavo starb an Covid”, wrote Heloisa de Carvalho on Twitter. “May God forgive him for all his crimes.”
Few personalities have recently divided South America’s largest nation as much as Olavo de Carvalho: Once little more than a crude far-right columnist, his conspiracy theories first received broad impetus with Brazil’s economic decline towards the end of the noughties. Thousands lost their jobs, crime exploded, and corruption spread across all political parties.
Carvalho sensed a left-wing conspiracy behind all of this. He fought for the right to bear arms and against the alleged decay of Christian values. More and more people followed him online, and more and more people were seen at demonstrations wearing T-shirts that said “Olavo is right.”
Then, when presidential elections took place in Brazil in 2018, Jair Bolsonaro harnessed the power of this ultra-right current. He repeatedly referred to Carvalho during the election campaign. After the victory, some ministers are said to have been appointed directly at his suggestion, including hardliners like former Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, who saw climate change as a conspiracy of the global left, as well as ex-Education Minister Abraham Weintraub, who publicly declared the drug Crack was brought to Brazil by communists to weaken the country.
Soon after Jair Bolsonaro took office, however, Olavo de Carvalho also began publicly criticizing the president. The latter is much too hesitant in the fight against Marxism.
The big question now is whether Carvalho’s death could also affect the elections that will be held in Brazil this year. The country has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the economy has collapsed. Above all, many blame Jair Bolsonaro for the misery, the president’s poll numbers are in the basement, and Carvalho’s death could be another symbol of the end of the Bolsonaro era. His critics are now cheering online. “Carvalho is guaranteed a place in Hell“, it said on Twitter.
At the same time, however, there is still widespread fear in conservative circles of a return of the left. Jair Bolsonaro will try to use this for himself – also by citing Carvalho’s ideas. He was “one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Brazil,” declared the President, and imposed a day of national mourning.