The political situation in Brazil worsens day after day. The irresponsible way in which President Jair Bolsonaro is managing the effects of the pandemic has been causing concern and fury in all sectors of Brazilian society. All the bases that have so far guaranteed President Bolsonaro’s power are being shaken by his irresponsible policies. At the same time as its popularity plummets exponentially, the group that guaranteed the inviolability of his mandate – the military – is increasingly distant from the president’s projects.
In fact, the relationship between Bolsonaro and the military lasted a long time until its decline, which in itself is curious when we look at the concrete data. Despite his speech praising the Armed Forces and his apologies for the military dictatorship that prevailed in Brazil between 1964 and 1985, Bolsonaro’s government has been marked by a serious process of scrapping of the Armed Forces. The public budget allocated to the Ministry of Defense in 2020 was the smallest in more than two decades.
Clearly, Bolsonaro’s project has as its main objective the complete subordination of Brazil to the foreign military and economic powers of the western axis and this project requires the definitive bankruptcy of national military institutions. For this reason, the common discourse of the Brazilian political left, stating that Bolsonaro intends to militarize the country, is a flawed and shallow one, which does not understand the real problem of the current government.
Certainly, the great military mass was deceived by the Bolsonarian speeches and thus formed his electoral base. On the other hand, a small group of generals and high-ranking officials agreed to political positions with the neoliberal leadership and agreed to support the regime in exchange for personal benefits. However, these same soldiers are already beginning to realize the serious mistake they made.
Jair Bolsonaro’s neoliberal ideological fanaticism has led him to make serious mistakes that endanger national security itself. Examples of this attitude can be seen in the irresponsible creation of unnecessary friction and tension with Venezuela, at the regional level, and China, at the global level.
With an economically bankrupt country, facing the serious pandemic of the new coronavirus and with the Armed Forces absolutely scrapped, how to manage geopolitical crises of this magnitude? This is the big question that generals are beginning to ask and realizing that the only possible way is the end of the Bolsonaro’s government.
Since then, the military has started a series of moves that indicate they are planning a political intervention. Recently, Vice President Hamilton Mourao met with a group of generals to discuss ways to bring him to power. In practice, this means that the Brazilian military are openly planning a political coup to withdraw Bolsonaro and place Mourao in the presidency of the Republic.
Undoubtedly, the height of tensions between Bolsonaro and the military is being the inertia with which the president has dealt with the serious COVID-19 epidemic that plagues the country. The president’s neglect to take quarantine and social isolation measures has led to the exponential growth of the infection, causing the fury not only of the military, but also of all sectors of the civil society.
In the Parliament, an impeachment request has already been initiated. In The Hague, Bolsonaro has already been reported to the International Criminal Court for encouraging actions that lead to the growth of the pandemic, which could lead to the death of thousands of people. In fact, from all points of view, it seems that Bolsonaro’s tenure as president is almost over. Legally denounced, without popular support and rejected by the Armed Forces, all that remains for the Brazilian president is to count on foreign aid, coming from the nation to which he has sworn allegiance: the US. However, since the US is currently the country most affected by the global pandemic, having to deal with a serious domestic economic and political crisis, is Washington really interested in helping Bolsonaro? In the end, who will save the Brazilian president from the oncoming fate?
Everything indicates that Bolsonaro will fall in a matter of weeks or months. It remains to be seen what will come after him. It is unlikely and even undesirable that Bolsonaro will be brought to international trial. Still, taking into account all the bureaucracy surrounding the impeachment process in the Brazilian system, it is also unlikely that he will fall through the legal channels of the Brazilian Constitution, since the country’s situation is an emergency due to the pandemic. Therefore, it is speculated that the idea of military intervention will gain more and more strength in the coming days.
However, it is also unlikely that a military intervention to remove Bolsonaro will start a military dictatorship. The more realistic scenario indicates that the generals will overthrow the president and surrender the office to the current vice president, without militarizing the country anyway. It is also possible that this is the pretext for the establishment of a new constituent assembly, taking into account that for a long time the most liberal factions of the Brazilian Congress have proposed the installation of a parliamentary system in the country. Another possible scenario is that Bolsonaro gives in completely to the demands of the military and changes his attitudes, becoming a decorative figure in Brazilian politics.
Finally, the situation is one of several doubts and with a single certainty: Bolsonaro is alone and weakened.
Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro