Soldiers exchange guns for the ballot box


tortura-regime_militarCrédito: CEBI

Jornal do Brasil Álvaro Caldas

With a view to the coming elections, the ways of politics and the electoral game indicate the rise of a new and disquieting phenomenon in Brazilian politics: those in uniform. After the devastating experience of the military dictatorship which lasted 20 years, the military are coming back onto the national scene with a large appetite for power. They made the transition from dictatorship to democracy with the indelible marks of torture and violence against human rights. This time they are positioning themselves to take power not through the use of arms, but through the vote, entering into political activity en masse, up until now predominantly left to civilians. The place for the military was in their headquarters, where they conspired to take power.

They are presenting themselves as candidates in the wake of Operation Lava Jato, which has indiscriminately criminalized politics and politicians, and of an unprecedented economic and social crisis in the history of the country. Nauseated by the old oligarchic and corrupt leadership who have perpetuated themselves in power, the voters want change and renewal. The military are seeking a place for themselves in this space under the shabby banner as saviours of the nation. The objective of this group is to elect a conservative parliamentary caucus of “law and order”.

According to studies and research published by newspapers and magazines, about 100 retired armed forces officers, amongst them eight generals, plan to run for office in the coming elections. For the retired general, Antonio Hamilton Martins Mourão, “there is a demand, and we have decided to take part, because if we want change, there are only two ways: by force or by playing the game”. Mourão is the same officer who threatened the country with intervention by the armed forces.

They have decided to take part in the game, and the barracks are in a state of agitation. There are generals, majors and captains organizing to run in majority and proportional elections in October. Three of them are pre-candidates as governors of the Federal District, Ceara and Rio Grande do Norte. All of them are affiliated with the PSL Party of ex-captain Jair Bolsonaro, the leader of the group, with his intolerant, racist and homophobic preaching of the fascist kind.

An environment favourable to witch-hunting has contaminated the Federal Police, military police, civil police chiefs and even inspectors of the Federal Highway Police, in a military invasion never seen before in history. It is calculated that more than 400 candidates intend to swap their uniforms for politics. Weak and with no popular support, President Temer has become largely responsible for this uniformed invasion, by militarizing his government. He implemented the unsuccessful intervention by the military in Rio de Janeiro, placing officers in strategic posts and returning the Ministry of Defence to a General, after 20 years of being occupied by a civilian.

In this depoliticized climate, of unemployment, bitterness and rancour, where public security plays a large role, the population is heading for the elections with the dangerous risk of the institutions having a powerful caucus in uniform in the future Congress. These will be added to the religious caucus, dominated by the evangelists, those of celebrities, people with great exposure in the media, thus reinforcing the ammunition of the already existent guns caucus. For the most part they are police without any political tradition, formed in the unified order of the barracks and unprepared to understand complex Brazilian problems.

We are facing a situation where reality overtakes fiction. The characters in scene for this Brazilian tragedy are the same as always, this time transformed into spectres once again placing democracy at risk. Behind them, visible to the spectators, the film is passing of murder, of corruption, of social misery and political greed. These are the themes to be used by the false actors in their appeals to win votes in their campaigns.

Working on another front, but with the same objective, the head of the Army, General Eduardo Villas Boas, opened up an agenda to receive all the pre-candidates to the Presidency of the Republic in his office. In recent weeks, he has already talked to nine of them under the pretext of defending the inclusion of projects of interest of the institution in their programmes for government.

Under a democratic regime and in the middle of a troubled electoral process, the intervention by the commander makes it clear that this is to pressure and intervene in the October vote, with the risks inherent to politicization of the armed forces that the country already knows.

There were 20 years of dictatorship and State terrorism, with the resulting houses of death, murders and disappearances of internees. In its final report, the National Truth Commission points out that “the practice of grave violations was carried out in a planned and systematic manner, constituting a pattern of behaviour then adopted by the armed forces”. The country is to this day waiting for recognition of these transgressions and the asking for a pardon from the head of the Army. That would be timely, at this moment, when the soldiers are exchanging the gun for the ballot box.


Crédito: Dever de Classe