Beef, Bible and bullets

Brazil in the age of Bolsonaro

By Richard Lapper

Beef, Bible and bullets


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4901-5
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: June 2021
  • BIC Category: South & Central America (including Mexico), Latin America, TRAVEL / South America / Brazil, POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, HISTORY / Latin America / South America, Society & social sciences / International relations, Brazil, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Modern History, Politics, Politics & government


Backed by Brazil's wealthy agribusiness groups, a growing evangelical movement, and an emboldened military and police force, Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Driven by the former army captain's brand of controversial, aggressive rhetoric, the divisive presidential campaign saw fake news and misinformation shared with Bolsonaro's tens of millions of social media followers.

Bolsonaro promised simple solutions to Brazil's rising violent crime, falling living standards and widespread corruption, but what has emerged is Latin America's most right-wing president since the military dictatorships of the 1970s. Famous for his racist, homophobic and sexist beliefs and his disregard for human rights, the so-called 'Trump of the Tropics' has established a reputation based on his polemical, sensationalist statements.

Written by a journalist with decades of experience in the field, Beef, Bible and bullets is a compelling account of the origins of Brazil's unique brand of right-wing populism. Lapper offers the first major assessment of the Bolsonaro government and the growing tensions between extremist and moderate conservatives.


'So often, there is a lack of context brought to news reporting of today's Brazil. Lapper masterfully brings us that necessary context, weaving first-hand accounts from primary sources together with a rigorous chronicle of the country's recent history and politics. One of the clearest pictures of Brazil in 2021 and how it got there. A must-read for anyone covering Latin America.'
Lucinda Elliott, journalist, The Times

'Finally, a book that looks beyond easy narratives to explain the real reasons for Jair Bolsonaro's rise. One of the world's most knowledgeable experts on Brazil, Richard Lapper shows us not just the postcard image of Rio de Janeiro, but the country of Evangelical megachurches, cattle ranches, walled-off mansions and shopping malls that elected this total outsider. Beef, Bible and bullets is the best chronicle to date of how the "Trump of the Tropics" came to power.'
Brian Winter, Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly

'This timely, well-researched book traces the cultural, economic and social roots of Brazil's modern political transformation that Jair Bolsonaro captured in his unexpected path to the presidency. As such this colourful, readable book provides important insights into the social and political currents, beyond Brazil, that give rise to populism and that are shaping global politics.'
Christopher Sabatini, Senior Fellow for Latin America, Chatham House

'Drawing on sharp-eyed reporting and in-depth knowledge of Brazil, Richard Lapper has written a highly readable and informative account of the rise of Jair Bolsonaro and the damage he has done to his country.'
Michael Reid, author of Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power

'This is the best book in English on the rise to the Brazilian presidency of the volatile and polarising figure of Jair Bolsonaro. It also focuses on the emergence of Bolsonarismo, Brazil's version of national populism, and the base of support for and changing fortunes of the Bolsonaro administration in its first two years in power. Interspersing insightful portraits of Brazilians in different regions of the country with convincing explanations of events, Beef, Bible and bullets is an indispensable aid to the understanding of a political phenomenon that sometimes seems to defy logical analysis.'
Anthony W. Pereira, Professor, Brazil Institute and Department of International Development, King's College London


1 The outsider
2 Coming in from the cold
3 The magic moment
4 Dilma Rousseff and the rocky road to recession
5 The foundations begin to shake
6 A political implosion
7 Fear and loathing in the favelas
8 From utopia to dystopia
9 And God told me to vote for Bolsonaro
10 "Environment, environment, it's a joke."
11 The Amazon is burning
12 Tilting at windmills
13 A president under pressure
14 An unexpected bonanza

List of abbreviations


Richard Lapper is a writer and consultant who specialises in Latin America. He worked for the Financial Times for twenty-five years, occupying the post of Latin America editor between 1998 and 2008, and is an Associated Fellow of Chatham House.

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