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Apr 8, 2024, 5:57pm EDT
South America
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Brazil’s Supreme Court strikes down Bolsonaro’s military argument in boost for democracy

Insights from Brasil 247, Agência Brasil, and The Brazilian Report

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Jair Bolsonaro
REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
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The News

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the military cannot intervene in disputes between government branches, striking down an argument made by former rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro and his allies in favor of military intervention.

In a vote seen as symbolically important for democracy, 11 justices unanimously ruled that Brazil’s military does not have “moderating power” in the event of a dispute between the country’s executive, legislative and judicial branches, the Associated Press reported.

Bolsonaro made the case to ministers in 2020 that Article 142 of the constitution meant any of the government branches could call in the armed forces to restore order.

This became a rallying cry among Bolsonaro’s supporters, who sought a military takeover to oust his successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with protests culminating in the Jan. 8 2023 uprising in the capital Brasilia.

It heightens a public relations crisis for the Brazilian military — which ruled the country for two decades — as tensions also continue to brew with the current administration.

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Military ‘must reform to be more democratic’

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Source:  
Brasil247

The Supreme Court ruling will help preserve Brazilian democracy, but the nationalist, anti-democratic culture of the armed forces won’t go away without major reforms, wrote José Dirceu, President Lula’s former chief of staff. Military cadets in Brazil are educated in “a conservative, reactionary way” who are taught their duty is to “restore morality,” Dirceu argued, saying it came as little surprise that dozens of military officers reportedly supported Bolsonaro’s alleged coup attempt and are now facing arrest. In addition to overhauling military training, Brazilian lawmakers should also draft new laws that provide more oversight over who the president can appoint to military leadership roles to prevent political allegiances, he argued.

Military seeks to regain goodwill following coup allegations

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Source:  
Agência Brasil

Military experts and academics interviewed by Agência Brasil agreed that the armed forces face an “image crisis” over officers’ support for the Jan. 8 2023 riots in Brasilia. The military has undertaken an extensive PR campaign to highlight the loyalty of several officers who refused to support Bolsonaro’s plan to overturn the election he deemed unjust, one academic said. And the beleaguered military can tap into a general well of support: despite Brazil’s 21-year military dictatorship, the armed forces are still generally “well-liked” by the population because of their civil duties such as transporting goods to remote parts of the country, according to one military researcher.

Brazil has an uneasy relationship with its military past

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Sources:  
The Brazilian Report, The Guardian

Unlike neighboring countries which also suffered through years of military dictatorships, Brazil has historically refrained from prosecuting military officials accused of human rights violations and has avoided commemorating victims killed under prior regimes, according to The Brazilian Report. This year, President Lula canceled several planned memorials of Brazil’s coup of March 31 1964, in a reported attempt to avoid “inflaming” tensions that could further distance his administration from the military, The Guardian reported. Lula’s decision has angered family members of political victims of the former dictatorship, particularly given that Lula’s own brother, Frei Chico, was tortured by the ruling military in the 1970s.

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