President Lula this Wednesday during an appearance in Brasilia, flanked by two of his ministers, Luiz Marinho (Labour, left) and Rui Costa (Civil House).DOUGLAS MAGNO (AFP)
The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has dismissed more than 80 soldiers assigned to his official residence and the President’s residence; he suspects they are infiltrators, Bolsonarians more loyal to his predecessor than to the Republic. He and his wife have not moved for the time being either, they are still in a luxury hotel in Brasilia. They want to make sure their official home is an armored room for their security and privacy. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces also has grounds for suspicion as it is becoming increasingly clear that the attack on the three powers’ headquarters on Sunday 8th was supported by military commanders. The invasion focused on the behavior of the armed forces after the elections lost by Jair Messias Bolsonaro, before the presidential ouster and during the coup attack.
The Planalto Palace, where the presidents work, was one of three buildings invaded by thousands of angry Bolsonaristas who dismiss Lula’s victory with untruths and conspiracy theories. And that Planalto has a special body whose job it is to protect it. But it turns out that on Saturday, when there were already official reports warning of the risk of an attack during the Bolsonaro demonstration called for Sunday, some soldiers who arrived on Friday to reinforce the presidential guard were sent home became. They were not recalled until the extremist invasion was over.
President Lula, who was not in Brasilia on that fateful day, could have mobilized the military to restore order, but he preferred to keep them on the sidelines and let his government take care of public safety in the capital.
At the same time, the role played by the military and members of the security forces in the serious incidents is being examined more closely.
The President assured this Wednesday in an interview with the Globo channel, the most watched in Brazil, that “everyone involved in the acts of the coup will be punished”. “I had the impression that people were following Bolsonaro’s orders,” he explained, and demanded “anyone who wants to do politics should take off their uniform.” Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is still in the US with no return date.
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Journalist Fabio Victor, who has just published Camouflaged Power, a book on the military’s relationship to politics and the alliance with Bolsonaro (Companhia das Letras, in Portuguese), claims over the phone that “at the very least, the armed forces have been colluded with Bolsonarismo, attacking the institutions”. It states that the military leadership “supported the coup policy from the start. He issued a joint note (after the elections) in which they portrayed the protests outside the barracks as an exercise of freedom of speech. There was the embryo of the attempted coup (January 8). They could have dismantled the coups, they had the power and they didn’t; and relatives of influential soldiers took part”.
The armed forces have been silent since the attack in Brasilia. But the complicity of a military command was caught on video. One of the footage circulating on the networks shows a police chief confronting a uniformed army colonel trying to prevent the arrest of assailants in one of Planalto’s posh halls. “But are you crazy?” the policeman yells at the soldier, who interrupts him before the first announces, “All the prisoners are here.”
As investigations continue to determine who perpetrated, facilitated and funded the invasion of Brasilia, court decisions are being made about the accused. More than 350 detainees detained by order of Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who is leading the investigation, a very harsh measure in a country like Brazil, which stands out as a country of special guarantees. A further 220 people are chargeable. Moraes has yet to analyze the files of around 800 people arrested.
Lula’s suspicions go beyond individual behavior. Hence the firings of more than 80 uniformed officers this week, days after they publicly complained that someone from inside the presidential palace had opened the door to the coup plotters. The leader of the Brazilian left, who presides over a broad-based government, would have wanted the armed forces to dismantle the coup plotters Bolsonarismo staged the day after the elections. But until the inauguration, his hands and feet were tied.
Since his election victory, Lula has been aware of how delicate his relationship with the military was, because never since the dictatorship did they have as much political power as under Bolsonaro. A former army captain, the former president, filled the cabinet with retired generals, doubling the number of military personnel in civilian administrative jobs and freeing them from pension cuts.
Early in the transition, Lula didn’t hesitate to reveal who would become his secretary of defense. José Múcio, a political veteran held in high esteem by Bolsonaro and his supporters, was one of the first names to be announced. Although Lula complained that none of the numerous intelligence services had alerted him to the coup attempt, as Minister Múcio went so far as to say the coup plotters were “democratic demonstrations”, he has confirmed this after being reprimanded in office.
In Lula’s previous term as president (2003-2010), “there was a kind of truce between the military and the left,” recalls journalist Victor. He says Lula even received a spate of voices from uniformed officials unhappy with his predecessor’s budget cuts. They maintained a good relationship “thanks to the strategic investments[of the Lula governments]in the three arms”. He adds that “this truce began to break down when Dilma (Roussseff) was a former guerrilla, had less political clout, and established the Truth Commission, which had no punitive powers but was able to investigate the crimes of the dictatorship and the… show guilty. That incited the military.” And that’s where, according to the Camouflaged Power author, comes the perfect storm: the demonization of politics brings to light the historical anti-communism and anti-leftism of the armed forces, and Bolsonaro emerges as the incarnation of that cocktail. They forge a close alliance.
Lula insists he wants “a civilized relationship” with the military. This Friday he will meet again with the leadership of the Bundeswehr. “I already told you at the first meeting that I want to strengthen the defense industry of this country,” stressed the President, who was always more forgiving than confrontational.
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