The three commanders of the Brazilian Armed Forces have slammed the door on the ultra-right government. The resignations have caused a real political earthquake, and not only because the uniformed men have been a vital support for President Jair Bolsonaro . Such a slight to a head of state has no precedent in the history of that country.
According to the São Paulo newspaper ‘Folh’a, the heads of the Army, Navy and Aviation, General Edson Leal Pujol, Admiral Ilques Barbosa, and Air Brigade Lieutenant Antônio Carlos Bermudez, respectively, told Bolsonaro that ” they will not participate in any coup adventure”.
The president had been demanding specific statements of support from the uniformed officers when the impeachment requests against him again gain force due to the handling of the pandemic .
The new Defense Minister, the also general, Walter Souza Braga Netto, tried to avoid the military crisis. The only thing he obtained from the leaders is the commitment not to say in public that they asked to leave their positions and that it was a decision taken at the highest level of the Executive. But all of Brazil already knew that the opposite had happened.
Tensions on the military front add to the bleak outlook caused by the more than 310,000 deaths from covid-19 .
The unrest at the top became unstoppable after Bolsonaro’s decision to remove another general from the Defense portfolio : Fernando Azevedo y Silva. The opening of a conflict front in the barracks would have a strong destabilizing component for the Government.
During the presidential moments of greatest weakness, radical Bolsonarism demanded that the Armed Forces take action by closing Congress and intervening the Federal Supreme Court (TSF).
Friction and silences
Next Wednesday marks the 57th anniversary of the coup and the beginning of a dictatorship that lasted until 1985. Bolsonaro has not tired of vindicating even his darkest sides. Despite the alliance it has forged with the military, who occupy numerous ministries and secretariats of State, there has been no lack of friction since the era of the extreme right began.
For months, Bolsonaro wanted to get rid of General Pujol, who privately did not stop expressing his differences with the Government over the disastrous handling of the pandemic. “While the president adopted a denialist agenda , the general offered him an elbow instead of a handshake,” said ‘Folha’ in this regard.
After the Supreme Court restored the political rights of the former president of Luiz Incio Lula da Silva and classified Sergio Moro, the judge who had convicted him, as biased, Bolsonaro expected that Pujol and Acevedo, the outgoing defense minister, would publicly criticize those rulings.
The president would have wanted them to repeat the gesture of Eduardo Villas Bôas , the army commander who, in 2018, caused a stir by pressuring the TSF to have Lula avoid his jail. The intervention of Villas Bôas was crucial: he removed the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) from the electoral race in which he appeared as the favorite and paved the way of victory at the polls for the retired captain.
Uncertainty and fear
The resignations of the high command are known a few hours after Ernesto Araújo had to leave the Foreign Ministry. Araújo rejected the Paris Accords and performed poorly in vaccine management.
His departure represented a very hard blow for the most ideological sectors of the Government. Bolsonaro was unable to sustain him and that was seen as a sign of great weakness . Araujo was followed by five more ministers , including Defense and Justice.
“The country is scared, but nobody deigns to say what, after all, is intended,” said the newspaper Estado. “Will the government change course, abandoning the plethora of mistakes it has made?” In his opinion, the removal of Azevedo, which preluded the resignations in the Armed Forces, “was much louder than the others, because in its fog the greatest dangers to democracy are hidden .”