Brazil: Bolsonaro in turmoil for “attempted coup d’état”

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is banned from leaving the country after being targeted by a police operation on Thursday as part of an investigation into an “attempted coup d’état” which culminated in the riots of January 8, 2023 in Brasilia.

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This large-scale operation, which also targets former ministers, generals and close collaborators of Mr. Bolsonaro, further tightens the judicial grip on the former far-right leader (2019-2022), surrounded by affairs since he left power.

“In respect of the decisions taken today”, the ex-president will “hand over his passport to the authorities”, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) one of his lawyers, Fabio Wajngarten.

Jair Bolsonaro was “banned from leaving the country”, according to the Supreme Court ruling which authorized Thursday’s police operation. The person concerned denounced “relentless persecution”.

The federal police announced in a press release that they had carried out 33 searches and four arrest warrants, as part of an investigation into “a criminal organization which took part in an attempted coup d’état (…) to obtain political advantages with the maintenance of the president of the time in power.

The president in question is Jair Bolsonaro, defeated in October 2022 in his attempt at re-election against Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

A week after Lula’s inauguration, on January 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaristas ransacked places of power in Brasilia, demanding military intervention to dislodge the left-wing president from power. Riots reminiscent of the assault on the Capitol in Washington by supporters of Donald Trump two years earlier.

“Not ready to leave power”

“It has been more than a year since I have governed and I continue to suffer relentless persecution,” Jair Bolsonaro told a journalist from the daily Folha de S. Paulo on Thursday.

“Forget me, there is someone else who governs the country,” he added.

His successor responded to him from a distance: “The fact is that there was an attempted coup d’état (…) which could not have taken place without Bolsonaro,” Lula declared Thursday on local radio Itatiaia.

“He was not ready to leave power, he did not have the courage to pass me the presidential sash, he left crying for the United States because he had to participate in the construction of this attempted coup of State”, he insisted, while calling for respect for the “presumption of innocence”.

Three people were arrested on Thursday, according to the Brazilian press: Filipe Martins, Mr. Bolsonaro’s former foreign policy advisor, as well as two soldiers.

In addition, four generals were targeted by the searches, including two former defense ministers in the Bolsonaro government.

One of them, Walter Braga Netto, was then his vice-presidential candidate in the 2022 election. The other, Paulo Sergio Nogueira, was commander-in-chief of the Army before becoming a minister.

Another prominent personality targeted by the operation: the influential general Augusto Heleno, former minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet and considered one of Jair Bolsonaro’s gray eminences.

“Fake news”

The federal police evoke an attempt to “disseminate suspicions of fraud in the 2022 presidential elections even before the vote is held, to legitimize military intervention”.

The plan would have initially consisted of “the propagation of false information about the weaknesses of the electronic voting system”.

The police then speak of “the practice of acts to abolish the democratic rule of law through a coup d’état, with the support of the military.”

Investigators particularly mention a plan consisting of arresting Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes, the bête noire of the Bolsonaro clan, for having ordered the opening of numerous investigations against the ex-president.

Judge Moraes is also the head of the Superior Electoral Court, which sentenced the former president to eight years of ineligibility in June, for disseminating false information about the electronic voting system.

Last week, one of Bolsonaro’s sons, Carlos, was targeted by another police operation, as part of an investigation into illegal espionage under his father’s presidency.

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