Eduardo Pazzuelo's impunity

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By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL*

The illusion that the generals can act as a brake on Jair M. Bolsonaro is dispelled once and for all.

Pazuello's impunity is a powerful indicator of the position of the military and the complexity of the political situation in Brazil for those who dream of restoring the democratic path.

The illusion that the generals can serve as a brake on Bolsonaro is dispelled once and for all. In order not to quarrel with him, they took on a Homeric shame: accepting the lame excuse of a lying general, in a case that attracted the eyes of the entire nation, once and for all jeopardizing the hierarchy (which, according to the official discourse, would be the distinguishing mark of the military ) and widening the partisanship of the barracks. For Bolsonaro, who cultivates today, as he cultivated in the past, the political agitation of the lower ranks, it is quite a victory. Its fiercest supporters were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. For the cowardly generalship, it is absolute demoralization.

Since the beginning of the government, Bolsonaro has been at odds with some military chiefs. There are those who are loyal followers of him, like Augusto Heleno or Eduardo Villas Bôas. With others, the relationship is subject to friction, remaining in a state of constant tension (as in the case of vice-president Hamilton Mourão) or reaching the breaking point (as in the case of former ministers Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz and Fernando Azevedo e Silva). These are differences regarding specific policies and fights for space in the government, not fundamental incompatibilities. Sometimes, press analysts dress up these disaffections with fantasies of “appreciation of democracy”, of “legalism” or of “fear of the politicization of the Armed Forces”, but there is little basis for this. All of them, after all, were guarantors of the 2016 coup, agents of the institutional fraud that led to Bolsonaro’s victory in 2018, first-time enthusiasts of a government with a clear fascist stench that handed over the management of the Brazilian state to military officers. In the face of this, how to sustain the image of democratic and professional generals?

There has not been a significant legalist sector at the top of the Army since the purge that took place shortly after the 1964 coup. The governments of the New Republic were delighted with the relative peace that reigned in the barracks after the devolution of power to civilians. There were grumbles on the part of generals in pajamas, wild demonstrations by active-duty commanders on specific occasions (such as the promulgation of the Constitution and during the work of the National Truth Commission) and occasional turmoil among low-ranking officers, highlighting the plan to attack terrorist prepared in Rio de Janeiro by a young lieutenant of limited enlightenment, discovered in 1987. Little, in comparison with the frequent military riots of the democratic period before 1964. The relative calm allowed the governments after 1985 to lose interest in the question and almost did nothing to adapt the Armed Forces to civilian control and democratic coexistence. They were never asked to produce a self-criticism of the dictatorship. On the contrary, they clung to a parallel universe in which the “Revolution” of “March 31” had rid Brazil of the communist threat and torture and corruption had not existed.

This is not just an anti-democratic military corporation. She is, profoundly, but at the heart of her rejection of democracy is her fervent belief in the value of social hierarchies, her categorical repudiation of the value of equality. It is an anti-people sentiment. Therefore, in addition to its anti-democratic character, this corporation does not see itself as part of the people it should serve – and this is another important element to understand its position in the face of the situation. The suffering of workers, the deprivation of the poor, the hopelessness of young people, our half a million dead in the pandemic, none of this moves her because she sees herself as belonging elsewhere. In this sense, the military elite is much like other Brazilian elites, incapable of any solidarity with the mass of those below and, therefore, incapable of achieving true national sentiment.

Regarding this, it is possible to say that we have even regressed, from the business-military dictatorship of 1964 to now. The generals who held power almost 60 years ago were, many of them, guided by the fantasy of “Brazil power”. There they had their anti-people nationalism. Garrastazu Médici's anthological phrase indicates a little of his program: “The country is doing well, but the people are doing poorly”. After they left the government, however, they gradually abandoned developmentalism. They adhered to the neoliberal credo: “free market”, “comparative advantage”, the whole package. They also abandoned the notion of national sovereignty. They are satisfied with a position of canine subordination before the United States and are, some of them, getting close to Paulo Guedes in the delivery championship.

It is also for this reason, for turning its back on a people with whom it insists not to identify, that the military leadership can prove itself so insensitive to suffering, so complicit in the debacle, so Bolsonarist. It has its offices, its funds, its perks, its many advantages – and what does the rest matter?

The decision on Pazuello, due to the high visibility it had, is worth a statement from the Army High Command. Even if motivated not by genuine appreciation, but by convenience, it is a declaration of loyalty to Bolsonaro and his methods – disrespect for established rules, contempt for appearances, anything goes. And a statement of commitment. They are indicating beyond any doubt which side they are on today and which side they will remain in 2022.

Are you going to take a hit? I find it difficult to think of a classic barracks. There is a lack of leadership, a lack of courage and a lack of cohesion – the impression is that there is a very large internal dispute, groups fighting each other to know which one can gain greater advantages. The most likely is the continuation of the behavior adopted since the preparation of the 2016 coup: actions and declarations to keep the political temperature high, localized demonstrations of truculence, undisguised pressure on the “institutions” (which have already shown how cowed they are).

“Pressure” is also the keyword for our side. What the decision about Pazuello buries is the illusion that next year we would have a reasonably “normal” electoral process – and, with it, the parallel illusion that it is enough to win the elections (with Lula?) to put the country on the tracks of democratic recovery. Winning elections is the easiest thing, even if it isn't. Before that, we have to ensure that the left can freely choose their candidacies. Then, we have to guarantee the tenure of those elected and their ability to effectively govern. For all this we need pressure capability. That is, of organization and mobilization.

Circumstances are challenging; the pandemic, an accomplice of the government, is our enemy. But last Sunday's demonstrations showed that there is, in society, energies waiting to be channeled towards this task. The strengthening of permanent political work, of resistance today and accumulation of forces for the future, is essential and urgent.

* Luis Felipe Miguel He is a professor at the Institute of Political Science at UnB. Author, among other books, of The collapse of democracy in Brazil (Popular Expression).

 

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