Military, civilians and the coup

Image: Anna Shvets


Left-wing leaders and parties need to discuss projects to modernize the three armed forces and professionalize training in order to keep the military out of politics

When discussing the possibility of Jair Bolsonaro carrying out a “coup” against the institutions, it is important to consider that this already happened, in 2016, when President Dilma Rousseff was subjected to a fraudulent impeachment process. Taking a swing is like opening a door without knowing what's on the other side. In our case, there was Bolsonaro.

A bad soldier, a good militiaman and a mediocre parliamentarian, Jair offered the Armed Forces (FA) what they never had after the end of the military dictatorship: the legitimacy of voting to return to power. Relying on a fragmented party system and a political class devastated by the onslaughts of the judiciary -Operation Lava Jato illegally arrested Lula, leader in the polls -, Bolsonaro and the milicos returned to the presidency without needing tanks in the streets. The “military guardianship”, installed with the foundation of the Republic (1889), seemed assured, with guarantees of expansion over the State and institutions.

However, the new coronavirus pandemic has exposed the Executive Branch’s unpreparedness to deal with the crisis situation. Generals and Officials, occupying the main positions in the government, acted with indifference and incompetence in their functions. The Ministry of Health, commanded by General Pazuello, from Ativa, is the most painful example of the costs of having a military without expertise in a strategic position. So far, there have been almost 600 lives of Brazilians and an unprecedented crisis since redemocratization. As the bill always arrives, the last Power Data search showed an increase in the share of the population that evaluates the work of the armed forces as bad/terrible and a decrease in the rates of excellent/good. All of this also reflects the action of the Genocide CPI, whose revelations opened up to the public “the rotten band of the armed forces”: corrupt officers who tried to profit from the purchase of vaccines while Brazilians died by the thousands every day. The Officials in charge were called to give explanations. They blatantly lied and threw in the face of the whole society that the “public word of faith”, guaranteed to the military, is nothing more than a license to commit crimes.

Hence the threats of a coup, stories of printed votes and a parade of scrap metal to threaten (?) society. Yielding to “military tutelage”, the judiciary invited members of the armed forces to compose a “Electoral Transparency Commission”, news that only became public due to the carelessness of its director, the president of the TSE, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso - as if professional military personnel had anything to do with the electoral process to have the legitimacy of composing a commission of this nature(!). All this shows us that the union of the institutions that carried out the coup in 2016, despite being shaken, was not broken. Readily, five former presidents sought to consult military chiefs about the possibility of a coup that would prevent the 2022 elections. The Officials stated that the election will take place and the inauguration will be guaranteed. They minimized Bolsonaro's participation in solemnities and military graduations with signs that there will be no break in hierarchy. They raised, however, the possibility that the same does not happen with the Military Police, contaminated by Bolsonarism and the militia, subject to agitations that could disrupt the process.

It should be remembered that the military are guaranteed salaries, positions, benefits and budget, so there is a lot to lose when leaving the government, especially now that institutions are moving forward to punish the militiamen responsible for the crimes of the pandemic. Thus, one cannot rule out the possibility that the plan is to inflate Bolsonaro in his coup threats, participating and colluding with each act. Increase the political tension until the mutiny of militiamen and neo-fascist radicals who want to build the New Capitol here is inevitable. In this scenario, the “professional and committed to the Constitution and democracy” armed forces would emerge as guarantors of “law and order” (according to article 142 of the Constitution) quelling the rebels and stamping for themselves the heroism of the civic act who is rewarded with another reconciled exit from power, without punishment for the crimes committed during the pandemic. The military's political tactic is always the same: create the problem and then present it as a solution.

The Armed Forces must serve Brazil and not the other way around. Left-wing leaders and parties need to discuss projects to modernize the three armed forces and professionalize training in order to remove the military from politics, putting an end to the secular “military tutelage”. Given the inevitable deterioration of the FA's credibility in society, the political moment has never been so propitious. The population needs to know and become aware of the harmful consequences of the promiscuity between military power and political power. Of course, there are sectors of civil society that fear or even appreciate the infamous “military guardianship”, largely because it guarantees their group and class interests. But the confrontation is inevitable and, considering the alert that led General Braga Netto, warned that he could be arrested if he tried to prevent the 2022 elections, it may be that something is changing in our society. He had taken.

* Carla Teixeira is a doctoral student in history at UFMG.


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