New Canudos?

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With its tens of thousands of dead, the pandemic seems to be the new Canudos of the Brazilian Army

The Romans, when they wanted to allude to the speed with which one went from glory to misery, said that so-and-so would have gone “from the Capitol to the Tarpeian Rock”. The Capitol was Rome's power center, from where the gods would have created civilization. The tarpeian rock was a little behind, and it was from there that those condemned to death were hurled.

The metaphor comes to mind to think about how quickly the Bolsonarist public's expectations have been denied since the captain's election less than two years ago. Since the Collor de Mello presidency, the electoral expectations of a representative have never crumbled so quickly. But the disillusionment of those in power was not generated only by the pandemic, but by the mirage that moved them in their antisystemic fantasy.

The reactionary radicals believed that, in power, they would promote a redemptive crusade of morals and good customs that would take Brazil back to the golden age. Neoliberals thought that getting rid of the state and civil servants would produce miraculous economic growth. The military believed that they would redeem the military regime, revealing all its administrative capacity and political training. In the end, however, everything ended where it always ends: in the center.

The dismay of the radical reactionaries is well known. But what is on the agenda is the army's dismay. It was expected that the Bolsonaro government would represent the redemption of the military regime, that is, the public triumph of patriotism revealed by the armed forces would have saved Brazil from communism. All of the military's abilities—intellectual, civic, logistical, strategic—would once again come to the fore. But this is not what has been happening, as can be seen from the tension surrounding its association with the alleged “genocide” sponsored by President Bolsonaro during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the Republic, as is known, the military occupied the presidency for the first four years and then resisted giving way back to civilians. The decisive factor for his demoralization and withdrawal was the disaster at Canudos. Radicals at the time, who supported the military, tried to wall up the moderate President Prudente de Morais, accused of being lax in repressing the movement. Prudente sent the military there, and instead of consecrating the army, the disaster of the campaign demonstrated its shortcomings and liquidated its political pretensions. With its tens of thousands of dead, the pandemic seems to be the new Canudos of the Brazilian Army.

*Christian Edward Cyril Lynch He is a researcher at the Casa de Rui Barbosa Foundation and professor of political science at the Institute of Social and Political Studies (IESP) at UERJ.

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