Cornered, Jair Bolsonaro causes a climate of political fever in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro arrives on horseback to greet the crowd in front of the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on May 31.
Jair Bolsonaro arrives on horseback to greet the crowd outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on May 31. ANDRE BORGES / AP

How far will Jair Bolsonaro go? The question has arisen forcefully in recent days in Brazil, following multiple threatening statements made by the far-right president and his entourage, suggesting the possibility of a coup, or even an intervention by the military and a democratic breakdown.

After more than 500 days in power, and in the midst of a pandemic, the head of state is today threatened with dismissal in several parallel proceedings.

The first is played in the Chamber of Deputies, where around thirty appeals against it have been filed. The second concerns the ongoing investigation, carried out by the Attorney General of the Republic, into the alleged interference by the president in the federal police. The last concerns the very validity of the 2018 elections, won by Mr. Bolsonaro, challenged in court by at least five different actions.

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Cornered, the president defends himself in his own way: all claws out. On May 22, the justice system released a video of a recent ministerial meeting, supposed to remain confidential. We see a Jair Bolsonaro multiplying insults and slips, thundering against the other powers and saying he is ready to arm his supporters if necessary. “If they were armed, they would go to the streets (…) I want everyone to be armed! An armed people will never be a slave to anyone! “, he says then.

Manifestos in defense of democracy

The situation became even more tense on May 27. That day, on the orders of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), the highest judicial body in the country, the police conducted a series of searches of around 30 relatives of bloggers, business leaders, activists or deputies, close to the presidential clan. . All are suspected of having actively participated in the widespread dissemination of hate speech and false information against several institutions and public figures, in particular during the 2018 campaign.

The operation ulcerated Jair Bolsonaro. “It’s over, damn! (…) Days [comme celle-ci] will never happen again! (…) there are limits ! “, ignited the president, joined by his son Eduardo, member of parliament. The latter called for ” to punish “ STF judges and to take a “Energetic measure”, and too bad if his father is “Accused of dictator”. “Now is not the time to wonder if [le point de rupture] will happen, but when “, launched the elected official, willingly threatening.

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Surly? Bullying attempt? Or a real threat? These statements have in any case a little more electrified a country. Several demonstrations in defense of democracy have been launched online, including one called “Estamos juntos” (we are together), has been signed by a wide spectrum of politicians and artists, from both the right and the left. However, the text is stillborn: it has not yet accepted the favors of former president Lula, leader of the opposition, who obstinately refuses to affix his name alongside right-wing leaders, according to him responsible for the dismissal of his successor Dilma Rousseff.

Tired of these little political games, some therefore decided without waiting to hit the streets. On Sunday May 31, several hundred anti-fascist demonstrators marched on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo with cries of “Democracia! “ Most were supporters of football clubs, including the Corinthians, the former team of the legendary Socrates, who opposed the military dictatorship. They collided with the police, armed with tear gas, but also with very upset supporters of Jair Bolsonaro.

Perilous chess game

Because the crisis has polarized Brazil a little more (48% of the population believe that Mr. Bolsonaro should resign, when 50% oppose it, according to polling institute Datafolha), but also led to an additional radicalization of the supporters of the leader of the state.

On Saturday May 30, a handful of extremists carried out a torchlight march in Brasilia, like the white supremacists and the American Ku Klux Klan. For his part, the deputy of Rio de Janeiro Daniel Silveira, loyal to the president, directly threatened in a video the anti-fascist demonstrators, treated as “Communist motherfucker”, saying hope one of them “Will take a bullet in the chest” and claiming that he could carry out the shot himself and “Unload his weapon” if he felt threatened.

In this context, to say the least, it is the military who have the upper hand. Publicly, the option of a coup is certainly swept aside by the lattice ministers. But in private, concerned with order and hierarchy, the latter are increasingly exasperated by the wishes of the judiciary.

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On May 22, General Augusto Heleno, an influential adviser to the president’s institutional security, thus threatened the other powers of “Unforeseeable consequences”, in the event of the seizure of Jair Bolsonaro’s cellphone by the courts. Several reservists are already calling out loud and clear for army action, through the use of article 142 of the Constitution. He would allow him, according to supporters of the head of state, to intervene in order to guarantee the “Constitutional powers”.

In this perilous chess game, where each piece is as fragile as crystal and heavy as lead, it is who will make the first false movement or the movement too much. Everyone today fears the reaction of the head of state and his supporters, in the event of an orderly search within the Presidential Palace of the Planalto, or the arrest of one of his family members. In the famous ministerial meeting unveiled on May 22, Jair Bolsonaro has already warned: “I’m not going to wait for my family to get fucked. “

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