RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Brazilian police have unveiled a plot led by a Ukrainian armed movement to recruit Brazilian neo-Nazis with combat experience to fight pro-Russian rebels in the European country’s civil war.
A series of raids took place last month in seven cities on the homes of neo-Nazis in order to prevent possible attacks against Jews and gays in Porto Alegre, according to Brazilian police, who seized vast amounts of Nazi propaganda material and also illegal ammunition, reported the Zero Hora news portal.
The Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization, said Monday in a statement on its website that it is “following the investigation,” but preferred not to address journalists. It re-published news articles about the case from Brazilian newspapers on its site.
“Brazil’s simmering neo-Nazi movement, with its secret world of swastikas, hate propaganda and street violence, was being recruited by right-wing extremists in Ukraine,” reported the Financial Times on Tuesday.
According to Brazilian police, an Italian member of an international socialist national group called Misanthropic Division was recruiting youngsters ten months ago to fight in Ukraine. They are believed to have ties with Azov Battalion, an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group aligned with Kiev.
“They offered money and military training. We confirmed that a native of Porto Alegre had been fighting in Ukraine after being recruited,” a police spokesman told the newspaper, adding that at least another five may have joined in fighting in the war.
Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the recruitment took place, hosts a large community of German descendants. Since 2013, over 50 people have been investigated for downloading Nazi content from the internet.
A study by the University of Campinas revealed that there are about 100,000 Hitler supporters in Brazil’s southern region and several racist groups believed to be active, reported Zero Hora.
The rise of neo-Nazis in Brazil has challenged a popular myth that racism, at least the overt variety on display in the U.S. and other western countries, does not exist there, the Financial Times wrote.
Four skinheads who reportedly were planning an attack on another gang, who also were carrying anti-Jewish neo-Nazi propaganda, were arrested last week in Sao Paulo. They had showed their faces openly on an internet video challenging a rabbi that had taped a pro-Jewish message standing up next to an anti-Semitic poster.