One candle for politics, one for war

Clara Figueiredo, the false choice, digital photomontage, 2020


Although Bolsonaro's movements seem contradictory, they are complementary in that they fuel conflict between institutions.

Jair Bolsonaro's ministerial reform, which changed six ministers in the same day, is part of the government's transition process, which began at the end of last year, which marks the closing of the fence around the family's relations with Fabrício Queiroz and inquiries opened in the STF. The Bolsonaro government began in the anti-political wave of the 2018 election campaign. A tripod supporting the government was consolidated, which was conventionally characterized as the ideological nuclei (the olavists), the juridical-military and the economic nuclei. The president was the symbol of order and authority, the then Minister of Justice Sergio Moro a banner in the fight against corruption and the superminister of Economy Paulo Guedes a guarantor of the neoliberal program of fiscal austerity and privatizations.

A group of soldiers occupied posts inside the Planalto Palace, such as General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz at the Government Secretariat, and in strategic ministries, such as Mines and Energy and Infrastructure. A team of olavists was assigned to key areas, such as the Ministry of Education and Foreign Affairs, references of the most extremist groups that are at the forefront of the ideological struggle on social networks, aligned with the political-ideological project of the extreme right.

Changes are underway in the way the Bolsonaro government operates in these two years and four months, with the departure of ministers, with the change in the relationship with the National Congress, with the reaction of the Judiciary and with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which opens different perspectives.

The ideological core, which acted like the “mad dogs” of Bolsonarism, with street protests, attacks on enemies and ideological struggle on social networks, has lost protagonism in the last period. Until last year, this nucleus was at the forefront, pulling the string, carrying out “tests” and clearing the ground for Bolsonaro’s actions.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when Bolsonaro took the denialist line, attacked governors and boycotted social isolation policies, which generated a strong reaction in society and its institutional isolation, this segment took to the streets accusing a maneuver to overthrow the president with protests. in military symbols, feeding the shadow of a coup that persists in this government.

After the attack with fireworks on the STF by an extremist group, the investigation of anti-democratic acts was opened, with a search and seizure operation and a decree of arrest of six investigated, such as the far-right activist Sara Giromini, known as Sara Winter. The fake news inquiry was also launched, with the aim of investigating slanderous denunciations and threats against ministers of the Court.

In the context of the escalation of the conflict between the STF and far-right Bolsonarist groups, the Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub fell and Sara Winter was arrested for 10 days, released under precautionary measures with an electronic ankle bracelet. Without any expression of solidarity from the president, she publicly expressed resentment at the political abandonment.

This crisis precipitates with the arrest of retired military police officer Fabrício Queiroz, former advisor to Senator Flávio Bolsonaro and friend of President Jair Bolsonaro, in Atibaia, in the interior of São Paulo, at the home of family lawyer Frederick Wassef, a figure with traffic in the Palace da Alvorada, the official residence of the Presidency, and in ceremonies at the Planalto Palace.

Since then, Bolsonaro has started to keep a “safety margin” of the ideological core, triggered punctually around disputes that interested him directly. At the same time, he approached the physiological right (aka “centrão”), trying to increase his influence in the National Congress, and sought to expand his relations with the STF.

The rapprochement with the STF resulted in the decision of Minister Gilmar Mendes, who granted Queiroz house arrest and, subsequently, the sealed agreement with the right to a photo and hugs from Bolsonaro and Dias Toffoli, who opened the inquiries, for the appointment of Kássio Nunes Marques to replace Celso de Mello.

The government’s articulation with the so-called “centrão” blocked the opening of impeachment processes, increased the influence of Minister Rogério Marinho, absorbed Fábio Faria (PSD) into the Ministry and placed Gilson Machado in Tourism, who would have entered the portfolio, according to his predecessor. Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, in negotiation for the election for the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies.

The government's maneuver, which included the appointment of other positions and the release of amendments, resulted in the election of Arthur Lira (PP-AL) in the Chamber of Deputies and Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG) in the Senate. At the same time, the liberal right-wing camp was swallowed up in Congress, which had Rodrigo Maia as an exponent and was trying to build a candidacy for 2022.

Finally, Bolsonaro's distancing from the ideological core was evident in the case of federal deputy Daniel Silveira (PSL-RJ), who recorded a video threatening STF ministers and praising AI-5. After a unanimous position by the STF for the arrest of the parliamentarian and the decision to endorse it by a large majority of the Chamber of Deputies, Bolsonaro remained silent, which signals the displacement of the “culture wars” of the extreme right.

As soon as legislative activities began, the bill was approved that grants autonomy to the Central Bank, serving the interests of financial capital to shield monetary and exchange rate policy. Shortly after a meeting between the President of the Republic and the new Presidents of the Chamber and Senate, a letter was launched with priority projects of the neoliberal agenda for 2021.

The ongoing ministerial reform, foreseen since the beginning of the year, is part of this process of changes in the government, with the extraordinary element of the change in the Ministry of Defense and the unfolding of the departure of the commanders of the Army, Air Force and Navy.

The ideological core lost space, with the resignation of Eduardo Pazuello da Saúde (although he is a general, he was the biggest banner of health denialism) and Ernesto Araújo of Foreign Affairs, both at the request of the centrão, who claimed that the permanence of the ministers jeopardized the pandemic management. Minister Damares Regina Alves remains, who works on a conservative agenda, but with popular appeal, and dialogues with the evangelical churches that have supported Bolsonaro in the latest opinion polls.

The centrão gains more space in the management and operationalization of the relationship with the National Congress, with the appointment of Flavia Arruda (PL-DF) to the government secretary and with the displacement of the reserve general Luiz Eduardo Ramos to the Civil House. Until then, Ramos acted in Congress in negotiating with parliamentarians and Arruda chaired the mixed budget commission, which defined the projects and amendments to be released in the year.

The appointment of Federal Police Chief Anderson Torres, current Secretary of Public Security for the Federal District, to the Ministry of Justice points out that Bolsonaro wants to increase control and tighten guidelines on strategic areas. He is trusted by Flávio's family and is a friend. The National Secretariat of Public Security, which maintains dialogue with the Military Police in all states, will be under his command. With the return of André Mendonça to the Advocacy-General of the Union, he gains greater command in the legal defense of the government.

The resignation of the Army reserve general Fernando Azevedo e Silva from the Ministry of Defense and the replacement by Walter Braga Netto, who was in the Civil House, resulted in the departure of the commanders of the Army, Air Force and Navy. Azevedo e Silva is a general who rose to politics before Jair Bolsonaro became president. He has already acted in the parliamentary advisory of the Army in Congress, was advisor to the office of the president of the Federal Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, and reached the Executive at the Ministry of Defense appointed by Eduardo Villas-Boas. That is, he has connections, influence and less dependence on Bolsonaro.

The appointment of General Braga Neto to Defense, as well as the changes in Justice and in the AGU, signals that Bolsonaro wants greater control over the Armed Forces, placing key military posts under his command. For that, he needed to remove General Edson Leal Pujol from the position of Commander of the Brazilian Army.

Although Bolsonaro's movements seem contradictory, they are complementary in that they fuel the conflict between institutions, such as the STF and Congress, with the Armed Forces, acting as guarantor of an unstable political regime, with weakened institutions and in the face of a social crisis. growing and uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic. When advancing or retreating, he will be at the center of the political struggle.

On the one hand, it strengthens political articulation in the National Congress, consolidating its influence and building a political base for the 2022 presidential election, making parliamentarians responsible in the area of ​​government management. In this scenario, he projects that he is experiencing the worst of times and will have to cross the desert of the pandemic and the social crisis, but he will be able to recover next year, maintaining the neoliberal project and the polarization with the left to regroup the right and dispute the election. Thus, it lights a candle for politics.

On the other hand, as it imposed sacrifices on the ideological core, it compensated by hardening the conduct of Defense and Justice. He will personally lead and consolidate his command over state power apparatuses. In other words, it prepares for a scenario of worsening crisis, with social upheaval due to the impoverishment of the population and an eventual burst of mass mobilizations, as well as frightening sectors of capital and its spokespersons who raise criticism of the government. In this way, he lights another candle for war.

*Igor Felipe Santos is a journalist.


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