And now Jose?

Image: Lewis Burrows


Winning the elections is the smallest bet of Bolsonaro's coup strategy

Those who feared a “coup”, or heavy provocations on the day of the bicentennial, breathed a sigh of relief. According to several analysts, Bolsonaro stayed within the limits of the “four lines” by not repeating attacks on the Supreme Court and electronic voting machines in his speeches. Others have come to believe that the threats of a coup are outweighed by Bolsonaro's apparent emphasis on electoral confrontation. In my opinion, this analysis is completely wrong.

After all, what did Jair Bolsonaro want with the colossal investment of public and private resources that ended up putting fewer people on the streets and squares in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo than last year? For those who were scared by the images broadcast during and after the demonstrations, I suggest reviewing last year's. On Avenida Paulista, the participants were less than a fifth, in Rio de Janeiro they were just over half and in Brasília more or less tied.

The difference is in the political moment and in the electoral use of the images. Those in Brasilia lend themselves more to manipulation. The announcer on the platform produced the joke of the year when he said in a triumphant tone that “there were already 100 thousand”, to be brusquely corrected by a military advisor (?!) and announced “we are one million”, without losing his breath. Bolsonarist media, post facto, expanded the lie to 1,4 million. Balela! Anyone who opens the photo image on zap will see that less than half of the terrace was occupied.

None of that matters much. For Bolsonarist propaganda, what counts is the version and not the fact. They put in enough people to generate impactful images that are being used to “disprove” the electoral polls. “Datapovo” versus Datafolha. This is more important for Bolsonaro's other bet, the one that will try to spoil the game, than to win voters. By demoralizing polls, Jair Bolsonaro prepares his election loser speech, “proving” that both polls and elections can only be tricked. In their media, Bolsonaristas are saying that the energúmen has 65% of the voting intentions and Lula 19%! Does all this seem absurd? For ordinary mortals, it is pure delirium, but for the Bolsonarist base, it is the purest truth. And, in the coup strategy, that's what matters.

As for the content of the president's speeches, if he did not nominally attack the ministers of the Supreme Court or the court itself, he did not fail to give his message in a format that was not even so subliminal: "everybody knows what the Supreme Court is", he said. the energúmeno for cattle delirium. On the other hand, the messages on posters and banners were much more explicit and asked for military intervention, the closure of the STF and Congress, all this in bad Portuguese and bad English.

By the way, why would they bother to send messages to the world? It should be noted that most tracks were printed and only a few were homemade. Bolsonaro challenged the STF with some symbolic gestures, such as giving a prominent place to the old man from Havan, investigated by the STF for anti-democratic activities, on the platform of the military parade in Brasília, ahead of the vice president, the Minister of Defense and the president of Portugal and glued to it. On the other hand, at the widely publicized breakfast, he did not fail to give a much more explicit message to his supporters: “64 can be repeated”.

The most important result of the acts, however, was the excitement provoked among his followers. If last year the very real threats to the STF and Congress generated disappointment and discouraged his followers by not being implemented, now he has raised the spirits of his base to paroxysm. The speech threatening to wipe out the communists, the PT and the “nine-fingered prisoner” was as expected.

Many commentators pointed out as an error the absence of important themes for the electorate in general, such as hunger, unemployment, poverty, health, violence, among many others, in Bolsonaro's speech. The mention of “princesses” and his “unbroken” sexual power was also highly emphasized. This was seen as an electoral mistake for the female audience. But for Bolsonaro's purpose, all of this is secondary. Even if the women present in the mass of supporters were uncomfortable with the rudeness, including the comparison between Michelle and Janja, they must have shrugged their shoulders and thought: “Bolsonaro stuff”, excusing the myth for its misogyny. Pulled by the improbable, metrosexual himself, the audience roared with him: “unbroken”.

For those who were scared by the howling masses asking for a coup, even without explicit mention of the president, remember that this audience is not the main actor in any coup. It is not these characters, predominantly from the middle and upper classes, who will show up in confrontations with coups. They are the political support, but a coup is carried out with people armed and willing to kill and die. Reportedly, only 20% of public opinion supports a military regime. The problem is the amount of armed people who think the same.

The election result of the 7th was a 2% advance in the expectation of voting for Bolsonaro, according to DataFolha. Very little for the investment made, not only on this day but also in the government's outpouring of benefits for months. The good news in the economy, at billions of reais, favored the middle and upper classes. But for the poorest, the situation does not improve because food inflation continues to eat away at government aid amounts. If the price of gasoline fell 10%, milk rose 60% in one year and is worth almost twice as much as a liter of fuel. It is no coincidence that the vote for Lula in the segment of up to two minimum wages (more than 50% of the electorate) remains high and guarantees the PT's victory, at least until now.

What is worrying, in the electoral picture shown by the succession of polls since May, is the slight loss of votes for Lula (3%) in the first round and, much more serious, the slow recovery of Jair Bolsonaro, reducing the advantage, which was already more than 20%, to 11%. The “alligator’s mouth” is slowly closing and is already securing a second round for Bolsonaro. The bad news for the latter is that the forecasts, so far, for the second round indicate between 10 and 13% of advantage for Lula. Can Bolsonaro grow more until October 2? Maintaining the pace of its progression, it could arrive on election day with a difference reduced to 6 or 8 percentage points. If the Trump effect is repeated in Brazil, that is, if the closeted vote for Jair Bolsonaro has deceived the polls, he may leave the polls defeated by an even narrower margin.

Lula's campaign strategy in this final stretch for the first round is centered on winning the useful vote of Ciro Gomes' voters. Theoretically, Lula needs 3 to 4% of votes, about half of the votes that the colonel from Ceará still has today. The bad news is that Ciro Gomes's useful vote, so far, is the right-wing part of his electorate. In the Datafolha poll, he loses two points and Jair Bolsonaro gains two. The rest stays the same. Assuming that all Ciro Gomes voters capable of voting for Jair Bolsonaro have already joined the energetic, most of those who remain must have Lula as their second option. In other words, this bet is not unrealistic, but neither is it very likely, at least in terms of the required volume of votes. It would be necessary for Ciro Gomes to shrink brutally, reducing his vote to 2 or 3% of the electorate, which seems difficult.

The worrying thing, for me, is the fact that the Lula front's campaign is tactically poorly centered. It oscillates between responding to Jair Bolsonaro's attacks (disputing the evangelical public, for example) and emphasizing the issues of greatest concern to the electorate as a whole. And there is a lack of a consistent proposal to face the most acute problems of the poorest, hunger and unemployment.

Lula continues to insist on being elected with the clout of his past government and refrains from proposing more ambitious and concrete programs, beyond generic promises. Will it be enough to win the parade? It may be, but it does not seem to be providing a positive movement of hope for the future, capable of galvanizing electoral opinion. It seems that Lula is relying more on anti-Bolsonarism than on the enthusiastic vote for his future government.

Worst of all in this final stretch of the campaign is that the opposition is only betting on electoral victory, while Jair Bolsonaro is betting on the institutional crisis. There is no reaction in the left field to the coup threats. There are denunciations, of course, and appeals to the judiciary, but there is no plan B, what to do if (or when) the madman provokes the turn of tables.

This situation reminds me of the eve of the coup in Chile, in 1973. From the outset, these are completely different situations. But what they have in common is the absence of guidance on what to do in case the worst happens. Allende took a million Chileans to Alameda, days before the coup. The masses chanted in chorus: “Allende, Allende, el pueblo defiende te”. But how to defend the threatened president? The only time that Allende or the Popular Unity parties gave concrete guidance to face the coup was on the occasion of the failed attempt in July, known as “tancasso".

With the palace surrounded by rebel soldiers, Allende went on the radio and proclaimed: “vengan a la moneda con lo que tengan”. In other words, come with whatever weapons you can and attack these militiamen. It wasn't necessary, as army forces controlled the rebels, who were some kind of crazy fucking vanguard of the military extreme right trying to force the hand of their peers. Something in the style of General Mourão Filho, on March 31, 1964, in Brazil. Mourão was also outside the articulations of the highest coup leaders and forced an outcome that worked.

If Jair Bolsonaro tries his coup what will be the orientation of the left for his militancy? Go to the street? Facing the militiamen, police and, eventually, the armed forces? I think that if we leave the initiative to Bolsonaro, we will be in the hands of the general public. If they join, the game is played and lost. As it is not a given that the FFAA's high command wants to risk a confrontation process, our only chance would be to take the initiative to put the people on the street in large masses before Bolsonaro tries his move. But this requires preparation, in particular political preparation, warning the population of these risks and being on full alert to call for mass demonstrations. For now, we are politically unarmed for this situation. If weapons speak first, it will be difficult to mobilize the unarmed.

I still think a classic coup is going to be a tough thing, even taking into account the recently leaked military intelligence research. According to the news, most military police are Bolsonarists and would support a coup. Among the middle officers (lieutenants to colonels) the result is the same. Among senior Air Force and Navy officers the same. But among the generals, a prudent, if not the opposite, position prevails. And these are the decisive characters in any classic scam.

The armed militancy of Bolsonarism, organized in shooting clubs, can cause a lot of local incidents, but alone they will not go far. The military police can, locally, risk more ambitious actions, but they also don't have the strength to take power. Middle officers, without higher commands, are unlikely to take the initiative. Everything will therefore depend on what the generals are going to do.

I think that, with a narrow defeat (less than 5%?) by Bolsonaro in the first round, the picture will be ready for the coup. What will be the script for this process? Bolsonaro will say that the elections were not “clean” and call his masses to protest demonstrations, asking for the annulment of the elections. Its militiamen will act blocking roads, attacking opposition places, attacking lulistas in the streets.

If there are riots and clashes with the opposition, the police will intervene by putting their dick in ours. Once political instability is created, the general will declare military readiness and, possibly, send an ultimatum to Congress, supporting Bolsonaro's request for a state of siege. Or even a request for the pure and simple annulment of the elections. If Congress refuses one or another of the requests, we will see if the generals were bluffing or if they are going to face an explicit coup.

Jair Bolsonaro, in his coup strategy, makes no gestures except to generate this situation. Winning the elections is their lowest bet, not least because it is unlikely. He speaks to his armed base first. Even the mobilization of his fanatical unarmed supporters is aimed at giving political support to his armed supporters. If they all act without massive opposition in the streets, it will be easier to constrain Congress to swallow the ultimatums and vote what Jair Bolsonaro asks. With opposition, the situation may change and the general population may hesitate to force the issue. The possibilities of “revolutionary” movements, of militiamen, police and middle officers become much more difficult.

If the opposition adopts a defensive tactic “to avoid provocation”, it will end up cornered at home, handing over the streets to armed and unarmed Bolsonarism. The day after the October 2nd elections should not be used to outline electoral strategies for the second round. It should be to take to the streets and demand respect for results. In my opinion, Jair Bolsonaro will not be able to leave this banzé until after the second round, since an important part of his argument for his bases (the armed forces, in particular) is the accusation of tricking the elections to benefit Lula. Accepting the results of the first round and rejecting the results of the second is much more complicated, although possible.

To those who say that I am part of the alarmist left, I answer that it never hurt anyone to plan thinking about various scenarios and be ready for the worst.

Wake up, comrades and comrades! Let's think about winning the election, but without forgetting that without a strong demonstration of popular strength in the streets, the path of the coup is easy.

*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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