Ostrich syndrome?

Image: Magda Ehlers
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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

If the isolation of the coup plotters was the main result of the attempt, we cannot forget the impotent scenes.explanationquote from the federal government

There are several readings of last Sunday's episodes. The first is the realization that the coup attempt was a total fiasco, despite the tremendous visual impact of the depredation of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary palaces. The purpose of the demonstrators, laid bare in numerous messages on social networks, was to occupy these spaces with two to three million people and stay there until the Armed Forces took power. Less than 20 fanatics showed up who, despite the damage, were off the Esplanade before nightfall, with 1500 of them in jail.

The terrorists' thesis was well known: to provoke chaos in the capital and throughout the country and thereby create the conditions for military intervention. The terrorists gave instructions for actions everywhere, with emphasis on interruptions to highways, closure of fuel production companies and harassment of state and municipal legislative and executive offices. This part was also a fiasco. There were nine interruptions on federal highways and they were quickly dissolved.

Demonstrations in other cities were few, the largest in São Paulo, and a far cry from the massive acts of other times. Another interesting fact was the prudent refusal of the demonstrators to carry weapons, as also appeared in the calls that appealed specifically to the CACs. There were few guns noticed among the depredators of Brasília, which shows that the demonstrators are crazy, but “they don't run in front of the train making peeps”.

Calls for demonstrators to come for “all or nothing”, “to kill or die”, “with blood in their eyes”, collided with the sense of survival. It is interesting to note that there was not exactly a confrontation between the kind PM of Brasilia and the demonstrators. The valiant insurgents only clashed with isolated individuals and, from the moment an action began to clear the Esplanade, they took the team out without a fight.

What happened in Brasilia was just the fixation at a precise moment of a set of factors that were already inscribed in reality, since the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro at the polls. It was something predictable and openly advertised. The posture of the Military Police in Brasilia was also predictable, which had already shown its inclinations in several episodes, the last one just three weeks ago, in the upheaval of Lula's title. What was not predictable was the position of the new government, which was shown to be completely hostage to other forces in the episode.

The demonstration fell apart for the mere fact of not having even one percent of what the conveners predicted. And in the amplitude of the Esplanade, the rioters diluted themselves. Despite the PMs' attitude of amusing and sympathetic contemplation, when the National Force belatedly showed its face, the tide began to ebb. Towards the end of the afternoon, Governor Ibaneis Rocha ordered the riot police to move and they did, lazily and always at a good distance, using more gas than anything else. He would say that the demonstration ebbed more because of exhaustion and a sense of failure and growing risk than because of any intimidating action.

It is not possible that the government, led by Flávio Dino, was not capable of predicting what happened. He claims to have trusted the agreements with the governor of the DF, but this is such naivety that it cannot be believable. And where were those responsible for guarding the buildings, the feds themselves, the FFAA military? Where was the Presidential Guard? On the other hand, where was the military intelligence that didn't realize what was going on in front of their noses at the door of the barracks? The more than ambiguous attitude of the commanders of these barracks, ostensibly sheltering and protecting the demonstrators was an indication that the government could not trust the military. And this is the drama of the government today: it has no control over any armed force to guarantee democracy. The police are strongly Bolsonarists or simply from the extreme right and the FFAA are the same.

Lula can raise his hands to the sky and thank this scammer coup attempt. If, on the one hand, it exposes the impotence of the federal government, on the other hand, it points to the impotence of the coup d'état. And it isolated the extreme right politically, the most important result of Sunday's acts. If justice does what it has promised and rigorously punishes the coup plotters and, above all, their political leaders, their financiers and their collaborators in the PM and the FFAA, the brake on new threats will be important.

If the isolation of the coup plotters was the main result of the attempt, we cannot forget the scenes of explicit impotence of the federal government. The Minister of Justice had been calling for the dissolution of the camps outside the barracks since taking office, but Lula preferred to give José Múcio Monteiro the rope to convince the FFAA to do the job. The truth is that the imbroglio was not small.

The Military Police in Brasilia had the mandate to remove the tents and stallholders, but asked permission from the commanders of the barracks. These did not grant permission or take the initiative to clear the security perimeter. According to several columnists, among those camped there were reserve military personnel and even relatives of active-duty military personnel. The complicity was total, but there is a difference between support and solidarity and an armed engagement on the side of the coup leaders.

It is not a question of appreciation for democracy on the part of the officers, but of insecurity in relation to the moment and the lack of leadership or centralized command. The disaster of the coup demonstration should cool the spirits of the most bellicose officials in their anti-PT or anti-Lulism, but they were not the ones defeated in these recent events and, if the relationship with the government does not change, the threat will be weighing all the time.

What could Lula have done? There are not many alternatives: there is the principle of obedience due to the president, as commander in chief of the FFAA, and he will have to be put to the test. This is not done with Defense ministers like José Múcio, more a general's errand boy than a member of the government. At a time when the coup-supporting right has suffered a blow with its failed attempt, perhaps it is time to impose discipline on the FFAA. If the government shakes now, it will shake until the end and be hostage to the military, who will be able to calmly choose the moment and form of their coup.

The government will have to hold the FFAA accountable in Sunday's riot. The command of the Presidential Guard has to be investigated, as well as the commander of the general headquarters who placed armored vehicles to protect the demonstrators who took refuge in the camp after the acts. The next challenge will be the case against Eduardo Pazuello and the production of chloroquine by the Army. And let's not forget that General Augusto Heleno was an open articulator of coup campaigns throughout the Bolsonaro government. Will the inquiries reach him? Or will the government hold the Federal Police?

My feeling in relation to the military threat is that we are pretending to be deaf and blind in order to ignore the dangers and deny them. It is like the ostrich, which puts its head in the sand to “escape” from a threat. But the tail sticks out.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

 

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