The coup failed, but for how long?

Image: Eugene Liashchevskyi
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By DIJACI DAVID DE OLIVEIRA*

In the current scenario, each and every government needs the so-called governability

The invasion of the National Congress, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) and the Planalto Palace that took place on January 8 in Brasília became a landmark in the history of Brazil. This is because it demonstrates and denounces the fragility of its democracy.

The event seemed botched, but on the contrary it was ordered and orchestrated to serve as a trigger for a new insurrection attempt by the Armed Forces. What did the leaders of these movements expect? Create the environment for the military leadership to use the device of article 142 of the Brazilian Constitution, which states that the Armed Forces “are intended for the defense of the Homeland, the guarantee of constitutional powers” ​​in the face of “disorder”.

This would become more evident, of course, if the invasion movement had repercussions in other places in the country, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, in addition to other states in Bolsonaro's electoral base. But it still wasn't the trigger. This is because the riot had a negative impact and ended up keeping other people from going to the streets.

The first obvious attempt was the obstruction of highways in various parts of Brazil. In November 2022, they had more than 500 points on federal and state highways. This movement was followed by the organization of camps in more than 23 states in front of Army barracks. These concentrations led to other episodes, such as the attempt to invade the headquarters of the Federal Police (PF) on the day of the inauguration of the president-elect (Lula) by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) on December 12 and the attempt to blow up a tank car at Brasilia airport on Christmas Eve.

In all these moments, it is evident that the leaders were waiting for a popular explosion in the streets. They expected what happened in the so-called June 2013 journeys, in which popular uprisings took place in more than 500 cities in Brazil, all of which were convened through social networks.

This is what Bolsonarist leaders expect. They don't claim support from Lula's voters, only their own. There were more than 58 million votes. This would be possible, as they have a powerful communication network of their own. A good part of their voters are connected by a network of companies that provide them with news, videos, audios and other documents on a daily basis in order to induce a completely favorable reading of what they defend.

But why do they need it? Because the military forces are uncomfortable with carrying out a classic coup, but without popular support (besides that the legal and parliamentary model used in 2016 cannot be put into practice this time). It also weighs against the fact that there is strong international pressure in favor of the legality and legitimacy of Lula's election, in addition to the fact that there is great intellectual and media support in Brazil in favor of respect for the democratic process.

In the specific case of this event on January 8, the omission of the government of the Federal District (Governor Ibaneis Rocha Barros Junior), as well as the Command of the Military Police of the Federal District, the Legislative Police, and the Presidential Battalion, was evident. In the case of military institutions, this clearly showed that they let on that they are not favorable to the elected government.

Lula will have to face this. But it won't be easy. In the current scenario, each and every government needs the so-called governability. This is only possible with a broad coalition. In the case of the Lula government, this implies accepting even sectors that approached Bolsonarism. However, it needs to dismantle the coup tendency that is embedded in military agencies (Institutional Security Office - GSI, Brazilian Information Agency - ABIN, Federal Police - PF and the Armed Forces).

In its favor, it now has a more coordinated action with the Judiciary, which since the first year of the Bolsonaro government has been ostensibly attacked. And now, after the invasion of Congress, greater support from the Legislature is expected. If the ostensible discourse in favor of protecting the Democratic State of Law and the stigmatization of Bolsonaristas as criminal groups is maintained, Lula will be able to weaken and control any attempt to rise to a militarist and extreme right-wing government in Brazil.

*Dijaci David de Oliveira Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

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