Still on the political-military stalemate

Image: Artem Berliaikin
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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

The picture is very delicate due to the fact that the Armed Forces are in political turmoil and influenced by the ideology of the extreme right

The last article I posted on the site the earth is round, raised some criticisms that I thought it important to discuss. In fact, it was just a critic, but as it reflects a broader opinion within the left, in particular among fellow PT members, I will try to answer them, out of respect for the author and those who agree with him.

The essence of the criticism, in my view, is the realization of the powerlessness of the recently sworn-in Government to deal with the coup threat. I think the word impotence irritated the reader, as if I had called Lula a “brocha”. But it is an analysis of the correlation of political forces, particularly in the military.

Lula had and still has it clear that he does not have reliable State Security Forces to guarantee the institutions of the Republic. The Armed Forces, at least in terms of officers at all levels, are right-wing or extreme right-wing, nostalgic for the dictatorship and, above all, in the middle and lower layers of the officers, involved with Bolsonarism. To complete, the police forces under the control of the governors, are also strongly influenced by the madman. And elected governors are, in at least half the states, of the same ilk.

I do not dispute Lula's decision to temporize with the Armed Forces, not least because his commanders imposed the terms of his replacement and even the new Minister of Defense on the President. José Múcio Monteiro was appointed to appease the threat from the barracks and the government's decision was to try to convince the army to dissolve the Bolsonarist camps that, for nearly two months, had called for a coup on their doors, with the complacency and even solidarity of the colonels who command them.

The Minister of Defense was so soft in his approach that he defined such camps as democratic demonstrations, where several of his friends and relatives would be participating. Nothing was done, despite spaces like the one surrounding the Army HQ, in Brasília, having been notorious shelters for conspirators and even terrorists who plotted to blow up the airport.

On the eve of the turmoil on January 8, the call for an act of challenge to the institutions was opened on social networks. The intention to occupy the buildings of the Three Powers was explicit and the movement of dozens of buses from various places towards Brasília was pointed out by the press. The conveners spoke of taking two million to Praça dos Três Poderes and only leaving with the intervention of the Armed Forces, that is to say coup.

Let's admit that the government's intelligence service did not act to prevent Lula or Flávio Dino. After all, it is still the same Bolsonar militiamen who occupy the posts of Abin or the Institutional Security Office. But it is not possible that anyone in the government noticed what was already denounced on social media (by the left) or summoned on the same networks (by Bolsonarism).

If the government had taken the threat seriously, it would have known that it could not count on the PM of the DF, commanded by the notorious Bolsominion Anderson Torres and by the same Governor, Ibaneis Rocha. The Minister of Justice activated the National Force as a precautionary measure, but did not place it in the front line of Planalto's defense. On the other hand, the responsibility for the defense of this palace rests with the Presidential Guard battalion and Flávio Dino should have ensured that all personnel were on standby at the site. Was there any understanding with the commander, who demobilized the Guard on the eve of the events?

It is likely not, as if this were the case he would have had to be discharged on the same day. In other words, the minister trusted in the agreements with the command of the PM and with the outgoing Secretary of Security of the DF, knowing that Anderson Torres would be in charge at the time of the announced acts. And he trusted that the Presidential Guard would be in place. That's a lot of confidence for a high-level political cadre.

The only explanation for so much passivity is disbelief in the effective coup threat. This is explained by the fact that a massive displacement of coup demonstrators to Brasilia was not registered. It was a bet on the impotence of the coup intention, incapable of taking millions or even thousands of demonstrators to the intent. Lula's departure to São Paulo, away from the epicenter of events, can only be explained for this reason.

Some analysts speculate that the whole situation was under the control of the government and that it let the plot unfold, believing that it would deflate without further damage and that its fiasco could be exploited politically. I do not believe this. The recordings of Lula and Flávio Dino during the episodes show that they were stunned by the scope and virulence of the attack and the passivity of the security forces. And, if this version were true, it would indicate a high degree of irresponsibility on the part of the President and his minister.

The positive side of the episode was the reaction of Flávio Dino and Lula, rejecting Múcio Monteiro's suggestion (blown up by the generals?) of declaring a GLO, in the DF. The intervention in the DF Security Secretariat and the immediate arrival on the scene of the intervenor Ricardo Capelli, ordering the repression of the riots by the shocks of the Military Police of Brasilia, was capital to disarm, not the coup that was never a real threat of success without the intervention of the Armed Forces, but the handing over of the DF to the control of the army. It should be noted that this delivery would not, in itself, mean the coup, but would make the government hostage to a hostile armed force in its home.

It is important to note that the PM of the DF, once under orders to act, did so without quibbles, despite all its sympathy for Bolsonarism. This shows that the PM's attitude of complacency, both in the general rehearsal on the day of Lula's nomination at the TSE, and throughout 8/1, can only be explained by the attitude of its commands, the Security Secretary and the Governor. PMs tend to be quite averse to taking the risks of overt disobedience to legitimate commands. Noting the passivity of the Armed Forces and the decisive attitude of the Federal Government, the PM of the DF fulfilled the orders to dissolve the riot.

I think that the above, known to everyone in detail from the press coverage of the last 15 days, shows that the Government's assessment of impotence was not an exaggeration. The fact that Lula's decision halted the evolution of events does not change this reality. And the unfolding of the riot further emphasized this feeling of impotence. At the end of the 8th, the most serious moment of the day occurs, more serious than the destructive fury of the crazed coup plotters on the Esplanade.

When the PM tries to carry out the order to arrest the rioters in the camp where they retreated when expelled from Praça dos Três Poderes, the military commander of the Planalto moves his armored vehicles to protect the demonstrators. And the commanding general of the army confronts the DF Security intervenor and the Minister of Justice, decreeing that “nobody was going to be arrested there”. The “agreement” between the three, leaving the arrests for the following day, is yet another sign of the Government's lack of authority over the Armed Forces. The postponement was intended to remove the soldiers and their relatives trapped in the camp from the reach of the Military Police. According to the press, half of the refugees had disappeared the next morning.

In a situation where Lula was not so insecure about being obeyed, the commanders of the Army, the Planalto and the Presidential Guard would be exonerated the day after the events and subjected to prosecution for various crimes, from prevarication to collaboration with acts that undermine institutions. of the Republic. At the very least, they would be detained in residences or barracks. But in the situation of impotence of the Government in its relations with the Armed Forces, what prevailed was a “passing of cloth”.

The Minister of Defense took pains to repeat that the page had been turned and that we had to think about the future. This continued until the President's meeting with the commanders of the Three Forces, on Friday the 13th. There was no demand from the Government and the statements by Múcio Monteiro and Rui Costa at the end of the meeting were of appeasement and affirmation of consensus. Consensus on what? According to the government, on the necessary investigation of the responsibilities in the turmoil. But the commanders walked out of the meeting without a word.

Everything changes with Lula's decision to dismiss the Army commander the following day. What changed from one day to the next? On the one hand, Lula's political reaction on the 9th and 10th, bringing together the Three Powers in demonstrations of repudiation of the riot on the first, and all the governors, including Bolsonaristas with a card, with the same result, on the second. These political gestures had a strong impact on public opinion. On the other hand, the entire press fell for the coup plotters and the isolation of the extreme right, Bolsonarist or not, was total. Finally, the intrepid Xandão took other legal measures, from the suspension of Ibaneis Rocha to the arrest of the secretary of security and the commander of the DF's PM, in addition to others to target the financiers, conveners and leaders of the riot. The coup right emerged from the episode clearly isolated and on the defensive.

But these facts were already known on the day of Lula's meeting with the commanders and the impotent conciliation policy continued firmly with Múcio Monteiro at the head. According to what was reported, the last straw to define the exoneration was the announcement of the appointment (made on the last day of the Jair Bolsonaro government) of Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid, assistant to the energetic, with whom he is sharing exile in Miami , for the command of the Goiânia Battalion, the army's elite shock troops. Lula would only have learned of this fact on Friday night and demanded that Múcio Monteiro be dismissed from the military. General Júlio César de Arruda, on Saturday morning, refused to comply with the order and Lula ordered Múcio Monteiro to dismiss him. I can imagine the general's surprise with this courageous gesture, especially after he framed the Minister of Justice, without having been questioned and having participated in the Friday meeting, where he was not charged.

I wrote in another article that the ultimate proof of Lula's authority would come on the day that one of the commanders of the Armed Forces was dismissed and that this order was accepted without tremors or threats. Well, that's what happened, despite the general trying to get the support of the Army High Command, in a virtual meeting at noon on Saturday. Support for what? It can only be to frame Lula himself and reverse the exoneration, with some agreement on the dismissal of Colonel Cid, or even keeping him, who knows what level of challenge General Júlio César de Arruda would have if the High Command supported him . But this support did not happen. I imagine that the majority realized that the confrontation with the executive would push them in the direction of what they had rejected when Jair Bolsonaro's electoral defeat: carrying out the coup.

The question remains about what made Lula change his attitude from Friday to Saturday. Saying that Cid's refusal to nominate was the last straw seems to me to be meaningless, since General Arruda's attitudes on January 8 were much more serious and Lula swallowed them up until the day before his act of bravery, reversing the policy of appeasement, which had a tremendous face of capitulation, especially in the opinion of General Arruda himself.

I believe that the new fact that precipitated the decision was not Colonel Cid, but the speech by General Tomás Miné, commander of the southeast region, given on Wednesday. Everyone heard the speech, and certainly more than once on various TV channels. But this speech only began to be circulated on social networks on Friday night. And in the traditional media only after his appointment as commander of the Army. Did Lula only find out that he had a potential ally in the High Command after the meeting with the Armed Forces? Well, with the weakness demonstrated by the government's intelligence services in recent weeks, this would not be surprising. I estimate that Lula, upon learning of Cid's nomination and Tomás's speech at the same time, decided to give checkmate, ordering Múcio, on Saturday morning, as reported, to frame Arruda or exonerate him.

The demonstration of force was extremely important for the future of the Government's relations with the Armed Forces. We still don't know how reliable General Tomás Miné can be, but he behaved as a candidate for the post of commander in chief in a government that he should not applaud, in his heart. I don't know if it was calculated or intuitive, but the timing it was perfect. To check.

Returning to the ostrich syndrome, the above shows that Lula was clear about his Government's impotence and the risk of confrontation with the Armed Forces. Neither did the Minister of Justice show the same clarity in his assessment of the concrete risk on January 8th. It ended up doing very well with the fiasco of the attempt and the rejection of almost everyone to the coup. The tables turned in favor of the government and even more so with the “candidacy” of General Tomás Miné for commander in chief.

But the picture is still very delicate due to the fact that the Armed Forces are in political turmoil and strongly influenced by the ideology of the extreme right. Justice action against the coup leaders, including the military, will be essential to keep them on the defensive. From yesterday to today, a new fact was the initiative of the military prosecutor to open an inquiry into the responsibilities of the FFAA in the turmoil. It was supposed to have happened at least 10 days ago, but better late than never and it wasn't a coincidence that they did it after the change of command. To see if it's for real or to pretend.

What has worried me all this time, in the attitude of Lula's campaign and that of the entire left, has been a kind of rejection of the risk of a coup. In 2021, the left faced the threats of a coup with mass mobilizations that reached 700 people in more than 400 cities. It was a response at the height of Bolsonarist movements that sought to bring more people to the streets, without success. But with the backlash of the energetic after September 7, we demobilized the campaign for impeachment (some fearing the emergence of a viable center-right candidacy) and went to support Lula's electoral campaign. We started to ignore the renewed coup threats throughout the campaign and after the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro. In a meeting with a representative of Lula, I asked what the plan was in case of a coup attempt and the answer was … none. It was believed that international pressure would prevent the coup.

Even more impressive was the attitude of the left after the elections, with the coup reaction growing in front of the barracks, after the paralysis of dozens of highways for nearly a week. We treat all of this like the crying of losers. We laughed at the renewed delusions that even had a certain insane originality (who would have thought that they would ask the ETs for help?). But nothing was done, or even discussed, in case the more than explicit threat materialized.

The proposal to make inauguration day a national mobilization in all squares, with big screens for the people to watch the event in Brasilia, was ignored. The party was undoubtedly apotheotic, but it lacked the national mobilization that would make all the difference to face the coup d'état. If we're just going to keep hoping that nothing bad happens, or that Lula is able to overcome the immense difficulties both in governing and in relating to the FFAA, we'll end up being surprised again.

Finally, I want to complain about the tone used by the fellow who criticized my article. According to him the article is “of opposition”. And this, to him, is anathema. If what I wrote is read as opposition to Lula's government, I think they're just waiting for applause. I spent 13 years on the councils of the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments and I opposed many of the measures that were taken in the areas of the environment, biosecurity, family farming, agribusiness and food security. However, my government interlocutors or my peers in civil society were not indignant or classified this behavior as “oppositional”. The MST didn't even want to participate in the councils in order to be freer to criticize, and that didn't mean it was disqualified as an opposition. Let's lower the tone, compas, that the debate gets better.

*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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