Brasilia, Aug 10 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday oversaw an unusual armed forces display in this capital, an event his political opponents say was aimed at influencing a key vote in the lower house of Congress.
A convoy of armored military vehicles paraded along the Esplanada dos Ministerios, an avenue in central Brasilia surrounded by ministry buildings.
Organized by the navy, the parade has been held annually since 1988 in Formosa, a town outside Brasilia. But Tuesday marked the first time it has been staged in the capital with the nation’s president looking on.
A 66-year-old former army captain who has frequently praised Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, Bolsonaro and the commanders of the three branches of the nation’s armed forces watched the parade from the doors of the Planalto presidential palace.
The president also received an invitation to attend military training exercises scheduled for next Monday in Formosa.
Brazil’s opposition said the military procession was aimed at intimidating the Chamber of Deputies, which was voting Tuesday on a Bolsonaro-backed constitutional reform proposal that would require printed receipts from some electronic ballot boxes.
Bolsonaro, who is expected to seek re-election next year, alleges that those ballot boxes are prone to fraud and wants Congress to approve a combination electronic and paper ballot voting system.
“It’s unacceptable for the armed forces to allow their image to be exhibited in this way, used to insinuate the use of force in support of the anti-democratic, coup-promoting proposal advocated by the president,” nine left-wing and center-left parties, including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party, said Tuesday in a statement.
The 75-year-old Lula, who governed from 2003 to 2010 and left office with sky-high approval ratings, is poised for a sensational political comeback in the 2022 general election after the Supreme Court annulled his corruption convictions and restored his political rights.
For his part, the center-right governor of Sao Paulo state, Joao Doria, said the “unprecedented and unnecessary parade of battle tanks” in Brasilia is a “clear threat to democracy.”
“The initiative once again borders on authoritarianism. Brazil wants democracy, respect for the constitution and liberty,” said Doria, Bolsonaro’s main conservative rival.
Another prominent center-right figure, former Chamber of Deputies chief Rodrigo Maia, compared Bolsonaro to Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori.
Things ended badly for the last president who came up with the idea of using tanks, Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, Maia said, referring to that head of state’s move to suspend the constitution and dissolve Congress in 1992 with military backing.
He noted that Fujimori, now 83, is currently behind bars after being convicted of human rights crimes and corruption.
Amid the growing criticism, the navy said in a statement that the military procession had been planned prior to Tuesday’s vote in the lower house and that there is no connection between the two. EFE