Brazil's evangelical far right could elect the country's next president

Brazil has more Catholics than any country in the world — but Evangelical Protestants are on the rise

Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has to start serving a 12-year prison sentence immediately, even while he appeals his conviction for corruption. The ruling effectively knocks him out of this year’s presidential race — which he was leading in every poll.

Lula’s imprisonment plunges the Brazilian Left deeper into a long-brewing crisis, and dozens of other high-level politicians have been brought down by the sprawling "Operation Car Wash " corruption investigation, leaving the right wing in a position to capitalize. With Lula’s center-left Workers Party out of power and Lula almost certainly out of the way, there's a clear path to the presidency.

One of the most powerful drivers in the rise of the Brazilian Right is the rapid growth of Evangelical Christianity in a traditionally Catholic country.

Evangelicals have one of the most powerful blocs in the country, and high-profile pastors have the power to direct their congregations toward voting for (and donating to) their anointed candidates. That means the Evangelical machine is in better shape than most heading into this year’s elections — even more so now with Lula, the undisputed center of gravity on the Brazilian left, effectively out of the way.

This segment originally aired April 4, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.