Four objectives and two bets for Bolsonarism

Image: Francesco Paggiaro


It is necessary to dismantle the power engineering of Bolsonarism and face the roots of the Brazilian crisis

The extreme right-wing leaders of the January 8, 2023 attack on the Three Powers were aware of the impact, risks and consequences of the invasion and depredation of the symbols of the Republic. It was not an operation that got totally out of control and had an unpredictable outcome.

Its mentors knew that the images would be reproduced in the mass media, would shock most of society, gain international repercussions and fuel a strong reaction from the powers that be. It was predictable that vandals would be held accountable and would suffer some form of criminalization.

Given this, the question is to identify the motivations of the operation that led those responsible for this attack to carry out it. From there, take steps to thwart the veiled goals of the plan's mentors.

One of the objectives was to show the weakness of the Republic, which had its symbols destroyed without reaction from the forces of repression. Thousands of people entered through the Esplanada, escorted by the Military Police of the Federal District, invaded the Planalto Palace, the Congress and the Federal Supreme Court and destroyed everything they found in front of them. The viscera of the political, institutional, operational, repressive and strategic weakness of the constituted powers, after the new government took office, were on display.

The second objective was to show the penetration of the extreme right in layers of the State and in the apparatus of repression, both at the base and at the top of the police and the Armed Forces. It was not just a sequence of mistakes that made the attack on the institutions possible, but the ideological identity of soldiers, commanders and political leaders with the cause of the demonstrators dressed in green and yellow fanatics by leader Jair Bolsonaro.

The third objective was to attest that, under Lula's presidency, there will be great institutional instability and social polarization, with the deepening of the crisis of the New Republic. The Executive, Judiciary and Legislative powers will be exposed and, above all, without guaranteeing the rearguard of the repression apparatus and, especially, of the Armed Forces. Their decisions may suffer questioning that will be taken to the last consequences, including violent actions.


political demonstration

Finally, give an absolute demonstration that there is a political force rooted in a part of society that does not accept the result of elections. Furthermore, it does not accept the new government and does not recognize the legitimacy of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary powers. Thus, consolidating an anti-systemic political force that rises in a “dress rehearsal” against the institutions and their power game, serving as an example for new violent protests and manifestations of disobedience to the command of the forces of repression.

The mentors behind the attack on the symbols of the Republic calculated that, in the short term, there would be a strong reaction from the attacked institutions and that the siege would close. It is evident that the ideological demarcation in this moment of great emotion with the election and inauguration of Lula would lead Bolsonarism to isolation, condemnation and public execration. In a way, it was like this during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the government rejected social distancing measures and was isolated, but it gradually recomposed its forces to contest the 2022 election.


strategic bets

However, the extreme right forces make two bets so that, in the future, this attack will be a symbol of taking a stand, firmness, courage and sacrifice by those who rose up against the “system” that keeps the country in danger.

The current bet is that the institutions' reaction will be nothing more than superficial measures. In other words, they will not have the necessary depth to dismantle the political engineering of Bolsonarism inside and outside the order, which has its brain in the Armed Forces and its arms in paramilitary groups.

Condemning acts, repressing, arresting, identifying financiers and exposing those who omitted is necessary to achieve Bolsonarism. However, if the criminalization process is taken to the last consequences, it will reach a barrier that will only be overcome with a political clash. History teaches that a political problem cannot be resolved with the police.

The bet for the future of the far right forces is on the depth of the Brazilian crisis and on the infeasibility of the broad front, under Lula's leadership, to maintain its cohesion to take the necessary measures to fight Bolsonarism, to survive the contradictions that will come with the bad weather of the new management and meet the expectations generated in the election.



The attacked institutions took measures in the field of repression and criminalization of those involved. The federal intervention in the public security of the DF, the detention and filing of the vandals, the arrest of the commander of the PMDF, the removal of the governor of the Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha and the arrest decree of the secretary of security of the DF, the Bolsonarist Anderson Torres, seek to give a response of strength in the face of exposure of weakness.

However, the plan of initiatives to clean up the penetration of the extreme right in command of the apparatus of repression, especially in the Armed Forces, facing military tutelage over democracy is still open.

The resignation of positions in the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces Hospital, held by reserve soldiers who participated in the acts, serves as an example for those on the base, but it is not enough. The command of the Army, Navy and Air Force, which in recent times has spoken out several times about national policy, remains silent in relation to the acts of destruction, which reveals the hornet's nest in the Ministry of Defense.

The real erosion of institutions, which is the background of the current political crisis, puts the refoundation of the political-institutional system as a perspective to rebuild the legitimacy of the powers and unite Brazil.

In addition, the fight against Bolsonarism as a political, ideological and social force implies advancing in popular organization and building a social force committed to democracy and a national project to solve the problems of the majority. From there, influence and corrode the non-ideological support base aligned with the extreme right.

Politics evolves at the speed of the new digital media and extraordinary events fall into the common grave and can change their meaning in a short time. What today is a detestable episode could, in the not so distant future, be considered as a colossal act of mass agitation. The bolsonaristas machines of fake news already working to pave the way for a “new” interpretation of events.

If the power engineering of Bolsonarism is not dismantled and the roots of the Brazilian crisis are not addressed, the explosion of a new phase of the political, social and economic conflagration, which has been dragging on openly since 2013, could change the game and reposition the extreme right as an alternative government.

*Igor Felipe Santos is a journalist and social movement activist. He is host of the podcast Três por Quatro, from Brazil in fact.

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