Analysts see Brazilian military as divided, rudderless

By Carlos A. Moreno

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 11 (EFE).- The indifference of the armed forces in the face both of last weekend’s violent attack on Brazil’s institutions by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro and of those supporters’ earlier pleas for a military coup to keep the defeated rightist in power reflect not a deep commitment to democracy but disarray, analysts told EFE.

No military unit responded last Sunday when pro-Bolsonaro mobs stormed the seats of legislative, judicial and presidential power in Brasilia, even though the army bears direct responsibility for the security of Planalto Palace, official residence of the president.

By the same token, the military studiously ignored the Bolsonaro partisans who camped in front of army headquarters for more than two months urging a coup to stop the winner of the Oct. 30 election, former two-term president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, from taking office on New Year’s Day.

“I don’t believe that a threat to Brazilian democracy exists currently. It doesn’t look to me that the army wants something of that nature. If they wanted a coup, they would have done it some time ago and wouldn’t have allowed Lula to win the elections,” said Rafael Alcadipani, a scholar with the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

He added, however, that the military’s refusal to intervene is not necessarily reassuring.

“The armed forces are quite disjointed, disorganized and de-structured. When an event like Sunday’s happens, their lack of structure and organization is clear,” the researcher said.

Another observer, Kai Kenkel of the International Relations Institute, attributed the disarray to an ideological split between officers loyal to the constitution and those sympathetic to Bolsonaro, a former army captain who eulogizes the 1964-1985 military regime.

“The institution is divided and that is an disaster from the military point of view,” he told EFE.

“The question of whether the commanders would obey Lula was answered when the army refused to dismantle the camps installed by the Bolsonaristas in front of the headquarters,” Kenkel said. “How were they going to obey if those protesters are former colleagues, family members and friends whose political orientation they share?”

Adm. Almir Garnier, the Brazilian navy chief, retired before Lula’s inauguration to avoid having to acknowledge the new president with a salute.

Though the official position of Lula’s administration is one of appreciation for the armed forces as the defenders of democracy, , who governed Brazil from 2003-2011, senior officials admit they have suspicions about the loyalties of senior officers.

Alexandre Padilha, who as minister of Institutional Relations is responsible for liaising with Congress, said Monday that the government has doubts about some officers “because there is a set of institutions that were contaminated by Bolsonarism.”

Indeed, several reserve officers took part in last Sunday’s riot in the capital.

On Tuesday, Adriano Carmago Testoni, a colonel in the army reserve, was fired from his position at the Armed Forces Hospital after posting videos of his participation in the violence.

The mobs rampaged for several hours before Federal Police moved in to quell the disturbances on orders fromm Lula, who was viewing storm damage in another part of the country at the time of the events in Brasilia.

More than 1,500 people have been detained so far, though around a third of them were released Tuesday “for humanitarian reasons.”

EFE cm/dr

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