Bolsonaro is a very coup even by CIA standards

Illustration: Joao Brizi for The Intercept Brasil

Transformation of the armed forces In one of the powers of the Republic is part of the ongoing project to destroy democracy. As if it were not enough to have a federal government full of military personnel leading ministries and nearly 7,000 holding civilian positions, the Bolsonaro now intends to transform the armed forces into a reviewing and moderating authority for other formed powers.

Today, military leaders feel free to hold meetings with the heads of other powers to suggest, direct, and monitor. This is another veiled attack on the constitution, which states that the armed forces must guarantee the existence of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and not act as if they are one of them.

In theory, the armed forces are constitutionally subject to the three powers. In practice, the army is already acting informally as if it were a force, being the only one armed and with the troops. They want to speak on equal terms with the other powers that display a gun at the waist.

This week, the militia has been particularly irritable. The elections are approaching, the armed forces are already on the field to ensure Bolsonaro’s re-election, and thus, the generous breasts have been invaded in these nearly four years.

Military leaders met with the heads of the legislative and judicial bodies to discuss the elections. For example, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco met with General Luis Carlos Gómez Matos, who heads the Supreme Military Tribunal, STM. For those who don’t remember, Matos is that brave Christian who said a few days ago that he had peacefully enjoyed Easter even after revealing that the court he is now presiding over always knew of the torture committed in the basements of the dictatorship.

Among the topics specifically discussed was the electoral process. Pacheco left the meeting saying it was “a necessary institutional conversation to align institutions”. He also stated that it is important “so that there is no case of an intensification of elections, from an electoral dispute that pollutes the good relations that should be between the heads and members of these institutions with each other.”

Pacheco’s speech is understandable, but wrong. Understandable because he intends to lower the temperature of the fire that Bolsonaro has set among the institutions. Misleading because the president of a military court has nothing to do with the affairs of the formed authorities, let alone the elections. The head of the STM deals exclusively with military legal matters. Meeting the head of the legislature to deal with the electoral process is not within their powers. Even more so in the current context, where the military constantly threatens coup plotters. So the normalization of this meeting is a bad sign for democracy.

The day before, the head of the STF, Luiz Fux, received a visit from Defense Minister General Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira. A note released by the STF after the meeting revealed that the central issue was the Brazilian elections: “[o general] He stated that the armed forces are committed to Brazilian democracy and that the military will act, within its competence, so that the electoral process proceeds normally and without incident.” Here we have the head of a problem authority that deals with the elections with a military man appointed by the president to lead the armed forces. This is worrying.

The meeting took place shortly after the defense minister participated in a meeting of the army’s high command with Bolsonaro and Braga Neto – the former defense minister who was denied the right to run for Bolsonaro’s deputy, but won the position of special adviser to the Cabinet. For the president not to lose the breast. That is, the Minister of Defense met with Bolsonaro and the military leadership on the eve of a meeting with the head of the STF, whose topic will be the elections. The meeting comes in a context where the president and the army send daily coup signals when they compete for the integrity of the electoral process. The mask of institutional meeting that both are trying to present to the meeting is another attempt to normalize the absurd.

The President and the military have already made clear that they wish to participate in and interfere with the work of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal during the electoral process. Federal Deputy Bolsonaro, Coronel Tadu, of São Paulo PL, declared that the armed forces should intervene in the electoral process if the Supreme Electoral Tribunal did not resolve the alleged defects in the voting form. “The armed forces are practically doing their duty waiting for the actions of the TSE,” Bolsonarista said, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “The armed forces will not only participate as spectators in the elections,” Bolsonaro reiterated last Thursday.

This mixing of the military and the Supreme Electoral Court is also the fault of the Supreme Electoral Court itself, which opened the doors of the court for the military to enter. The court invited a representative of the armed forces to join the Electoral Transparency Commission. The intention was, of course, good: to prove to the generals the integrity of the electoral process and the cover of the coup that did not take place.

The intent is to disable. When the TSE conducted a public examination of ballot box security, the FFAA decided not to participate. According to CNN Brasil, the prevailing assessment among the military is that “the eventual participation of forces will give credibility to the test.” Of course, in this way, the ballot box fraud card can be kept in its pocket.

The name the military indicated for the TSE commission merger was that of General Heber Garcia Portela, the Brazilian Army’s cyber defense chief, who had recently hired an Israeli cyber security firm. Check out one of the CEOs of this company, an analyst who until recently was the Director of Information Technology in the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic under the government of Bolsonaro.

This week, the president said that opinion polls need to be revised – as if they weren’t already exaggerated – and that his party would hire a company to do so. We should not be surprised if the contractor is the Israeli company represented by Bolsonare’s brother. We know that there is not the slightest concern with camouflaging the coup.

The facts don’t matter. The important thing is to keep the flame of doubt burning over the elections and the coup.

Also this week, Portela called on the Supreme Electoral Court to urgently disclose “the consequences of the electoral process, if any irregularity is identified”, as if the court’s rules had not already established it. He also signed off on the 88 questions the troops asked the TSE, noting the operation’s risks and weaknesses. The court responded by proposing a set of procedures and legal procedures to be adopted when problems occur in the polls.

However, Bolsonaro has reiterated in recent days that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is ignoring the army’s proposals to enhance security in the electoral process. The facts don’t matter. The important thing is to keep the flame of doubt burning over the elections and the coup.

In the midst of the escalation of the coup, the Minister of Defense sent, on Thursday, a letter to the President of the Supreme Electoral Court, Edson Fachin, requesting the disclosure of all documents exchanged between the court and the armed forces. In the document, the general heightened tension between the two institutions by noting that the chief electoral officer of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal had not responded to a request for a hearing.

The military is clearly looking for the egg in the electoral process to provide accounts of Bolsonaro’s coup. Had there been concerns about the smoothness of the system, the president would not have pressured Itamaraty to deny access to international observers from the European Union for the upcoming elections. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal was negotiating the access of these observers, but without the approval of the ministry responsible for the country’s foreign affairs, it had to stop.

Even if Bolsonaro failed to fully implement a coup, the attempt alone would be terribly harmful to democracy and the Brazilian people. It is wrong to underestimate this scenario.

Last year, in a closed meeting with Bolsonaro, CIA representatives urged him to stop undermining confidence in the Brazilian electoral process. Bolsonaro is a major coup d’état, even by CIA standards, known for fomenting coups around the world. The request has not been answered, of course, because now, with the departure of fellow coup leader, Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is no longer wagging his tail in the face of the US government. Now he prefers to swing with his colleague Putin.

It should be noted that an administrative investigation is being handled by TSE to investigate Bolsonaro’s baseless attacks on electronic voting machines. According to Sores for Truth and Justice Minister Luis Felipe Salomao, based on the evidence collected, there is a possibility that Bolsonaro could become disqualified by refusing to register the nomination or having his mandate removed. Evidence for attacks on the electoral system is many and extensive. Let’s see if the court will have the courage to frame the coup.

It seems unreasonable, but there are still people in the Brazilian column who believe that a large part of the military leadership does not support the president’s radicalism and will not be comfortable with his coup. It is sad to remember the obvious again: Bolsonaro and the armed forces have become one.

There are also those who say that if Bolsonaro loses the elections, there will be no material conditions for a coup. Today, in fact, these conditions do not exist, but they may be. And even if Bolsonaro fails to carry out a complete coup, the attempt alone would be terribly harmful to democracy and the Brazilian people. It is wrong to underestimate this scenario.

All the movements of the armed forces regarding the electoral process are already the beginning of the attempted coup. Part of paving the way is the permanent decline of institutions. We don’t know if the coup will succeed, but we can be absolutely certain that, regardless of who wins the election, democracy will face serious problems in the future.

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