As Brazil's presidential elections draw near, two important issues are top and centre: first, the hope of placating the chaos of that has engulfed the country's politics for the past four years. Second, the country's favorite sport, second only to football: memes.
The first presidential debate broadcasted on live television, on August 9, provided a true field day for its enthusiasts when Cabo Daciolo, an evangelical firefighter running for the small far-right party Patriota (Patriot), asked another candidate to share his thoughts on “the Ursal project”.
As Daciolo explained, Ursal is the Portuguese acronym for Union of Socialist Republics of Latin America, a purpoted plan of communist triumph in the fashion of the defunct Soviet Union.
Upon his interlocutor's denial of any knowledge about the project, Daciolo continued:
Sabe sim, estamos falando aqui de um plano que se chama nova ordem mundial, união de toda a América do Sul, conexão de toda América do Sul, tirando todas as fronteiras e fazendo apenas uma nação, pátria grande. Poucos ouviram falar disso e vai ser pouco divulgado isso. Eles sabem do que estamos falando. Quero deixar bem claro que, no nosso governo, o comunismo não vai ter vez.
Yes, you know, we are talking about a plan that is called New World Order, the union of all of South America, connection of all of South America, taking away all the borders, making one single nation, the great motherland. Few people have heard about this, this isn't going to be very much publicized. They know what we are talking about. I want to make it very clear that, in our government, communism will not have any space.
It turns out that the “project Ursal” is a rather obscure, crazy conspiracy theory that has run wild on Brazil's far-right forums and blogs for a good number of years. A website created in 2015 called Ursal Dossier compiles all the “evidence” proving the existence of such a plan.
However, now that it was out in the open, progressive sectors of the Brazil internet really liked the idea. In a matter of days, Ursal had a map, logo, slogans, passport, football team, and a national anthem.
From popular Twitter user Thiago Mota:
mas agora mesmo que vou lutar diariamente pela implantação da URSAL pic.twitter.com/RkaGwmzhGq
— Thiago Mota (@tlmota) August 10, 2018
Starting now, I will fight every day for the implementation of URSAL
In Portuguese, the word “urso” means bear, prompting memes with… bears.
Como socialistas na América Latina era nosso dever investir na propaganda de nossa querida União das Repúblicas Socialistas da América Latina. Vida longa à Ursal (faremos camiseta, comente aqui quem quiser) pic.twitter.com/CLorxXp1HX
— Além das Sombras (@AlemD4sSombras) 10 de agosto de 2018
As socialists in Latin America it was our duty to invest in the propaganda of our beloved Union of Socialist Republics of Latin America. Long live the Ursal (we'll make a t-shirt, comment here whoever want's it)
By integrating some of the best national football teams in the world, Ursal would have the greatest number of FIFA World Cup championships:
A Ursal já nasce eneacampeã da Copa do Mundo
1930, 1950, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1978, 1986, 1994 e 2002. Qualidade.
— Cassio Zirpoli (@Cassito_Z) August 10, 2018
Ursal is born as nine times champion of the World Cup: 1930, 1950, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1978, 1986, 1994 and 2002
And a dream line up:
— Marco Pena #URSAL (@MARCOPENA13) August 10, 2018
Think about this squad, man.
It is possible to buy a Ursal t-shirt:
— Canarinho de Wakanda (@OdaCarlota) August 10, 2018
HELLO YOU WHO BELIEVES IN URSAL! NOW YOU CAN WEAR IT WITH PRIDE!
Or request a passport:
Saiba aqui os postos de retirada do Vermelhinho, o passaporte que te permite viajar por todas os países socialistas.
Here you can find where to get your “little red”, the passport that allows you to travel through all socialist countries.
And Ursal's national anthem was fully crowdsourced on Twitter:
toda criança nasce cantando A Internacional
o aborto é seguro, gratuito e legal
uma foto do mujica em cada quartel-general
— melissa fan account (@janine_txt) August 10, 2018
Folks, I've started the national anthem, you carry on:
URSAL, URSAL, in this land carnival begins in November
URSAL, URSAL, you enter the museum, an orgy is taking place
URSAL, URSAL, your car, your fridge, your soul is state-owned
URSAL, URSAL, George Soros pays for our parties
URSAL, URSAL, every child is born singing The Internationale
URSAL, URSAL, abortion is safe, free and legal
URSAL, URSAL, a photo of [Pepe] Mujica [former Uruguay leftist president] in every army headquarters
Lifecycle of a conspiracy
The term Ursal was created, as a joke, by conservative Brazilian professor Maria Lúcia Victor Barbosa, in 2001. In an article published by right-wing blogs at that time, she used the term to poke fun at that year's edition of the São Paulo Forum summit, a gathering of Latin American and Caribbean left-wing political parties and organizations.
At the 2001 summit, Worker's Party founder and former Brazil's president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a vehement speech against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a proposal made by the Bill Clinton administration in the United States to reduce trade barriers between all American countries.
In her article, professor Barbosa said:
Do alto do seu triunfo ele soltou o verbo para gáudio de esquerdas e, para ser imparcial, direitas latino-americanas: “É um projeto de anexação que os Estados Unidos querem impor. Será o fim da integração latino-americana”. Mas qual seria, me pergunto, essa tal integração no modelo Castro-Chávez-Lula? Quem sabe, a criação da União das Republiquetas Socialistas da América Latina (URSAL)?
From its moral high ground, [Lula] declared, to the joy of the leftists and rightists of Latin America: ‘It's a project of annexation by the United States. It will be the end of the Latin American integration”. But what would be, I ask, this integration in the model Castro-Chávez-Lula? Perhaps, the creation of the Union of the Socialist Republics of Latin America?
Within a couple of years, Ursal was spoken of in right-wing blogs and forums as a fact, the supposed ultimate goal of the São Paulo Forum.
In an interview with Brazil newspaper Folha de S.Paulo on August 13, 2018, professor Barbosa confirmed that she had come up with the term as an irony.