Jair Bolsonaro will try to stage a coup. Will you come out victorious? Probably not. But it’s terrible that we’ve come to this point.
It is essential that all Democrats are clear about the imminence of the coup: visions of the “institutions are working” type (still nurtured by some political scientists) only bring us closer to a catastrophe. Bolsonaro will attempt the coup, and the priority now is for his plan to fail.
It is a process to be concluded only in 2022, and a key date (but not decisive) is the demonstration scheduled for September 7, for “freedom”, “military intervention”, “against the STF”, “by vote printed” and who knows what else.
This is a provocative event, and it is important that we Democrats do not accept provocations. Let them scream to themselves. According to them, it is the “7th of September of the people”. And we are what? Are we not part of this people, do we not have the right to celebrate Independence Day, our Fatherland Party?
Evidently we have, and we are the majority. But let us avoid provocations: all they want is to find justifications for closing the regime.
Why and how will the coup be given?
I refer here to the greatest Brazilian political scientist, Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos, and to his classic 1962 booklet “Who Will Give the Coup in Brazil?”, a premonition of the 1964 coup. Today’s work is much simpler, obviously, and it doesn’t need to be performed by a Wanderley, it can be by myself.
Bolsonaro will carry out the coup because he has always been authoritarian and knows that his electoral chances are slim. It has been adopting hysterical and paranoid behavior, denoting its political isolation.
With a weak economy, unemployment, rising inflation and interest rates, drought and energy crisis in sight, and a criminally managed Covid-19 pandemic still far from an end, Bolsonaro is unlikely to win the 2022 election (if any) .
Lula imposes himself as a virtual elected official, catapulted by the resumption of his political rights, by the memory of better times and by the opening of the persecutory bias of Operation Lava Jato.
As the electoral path seems blocked, Bolsonaro will have to find other paths (according to his recurrent expression) “outside the four lines of the Constitution” to follow his regressive project, returning to an imaginary, harmonious, Christian Brazil, in which communists were hanging in the pau de arara and women, “blacks” and “faggots” accepted an inferior place in society without protest.
A project centered on a “messianic” figure, convinced of his predestination, who mobilizes middle classes resentful of their loss of status, upstart elites, backward sectors of agro and mining and part of the most precarious in society.
It looks like fascism, it smells like fascism, it tastes like fascism. And it’s fascism.
Bolsonaro will deliver the blow as follows: his usual “modus operandi” is to produce chaos, elect new enemies and polarize. It will thus keep its supporters mobilized and increasingly armed. Ministers of the Federal Supreme Court, senators, journalists, the left, indigenous movements, blacks and feminists are harassing. Meanwhile, they continue to arm themselves.
Ideally, Bolsonaro will try to avoid the election, producing chaos as a justification for “military intervention”.
More likely, Bolsonaro will be able to produce something more concrete after his electoral defeat. He will allege fraud, lack of trust in electronic voting machines, and it is quite possible that he will decide to settle in the Palácio do Planalto.
Supporters will produce riots by military police in the states, eventually insubordination of low-ranking sectors of the Armed Forces, at the limit of invasions by the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court.
Everything is going to go wrong: there seems to be a lack of social base. But hell is in the details.
Why can the coup work?
There is no popular majority support for a coup attempt. There is no majority in the Federal Senate (anything can be expected from the amorphous and conservative Chamber of Deputies), nor support in the Federal Supreme Court or among state governors.
This time, the mainstream media is clearly opposed to such an adventure, as well as the Catholic Church, a good part of the business community and even bankers. It has everything to go wrong.
However, it is worth mentioning that Brazilian institutions are shattered and that the state has been increasingly occupied by the military since the 2016 coup.
It also happens that Bolsonaro has its support: adventurous businessmen, part of the agro industry, truck drivers associations, the tops of evangelical churches, shooting clubs, paramilitaries.
And the main thing: important contingents of the military police (which may decide to answer directly to him and no longer to the governors) and possibly the Armed Forces and the Federal Police seem willing to follow Bolsonaro in his “putsch”.
Who owns the weapons is no small matter. Thus, if armed sectors decide to keep Bolsonaro on the Plateau and occupy the National Congress or the Federal Supreme Court after the defeat in the elections, it is worth asking who will remove the coup-giver and his supporters from the palaces.
Thus, we depend once again on the so-called “legalistic military”, that is, on a part of the State’s repressive apparatus that decides to guarantee the inauguration of the elected president (we assume that it will be Lula).
Considering the authoritarian, interventionist and demophobic trajectory of our Armed Forces, relying solely on them is not the best scenario. Better not just rely on that.
What Democrats Should Do
It is essential to guarantee the physical preservation of the Democrats and their main leaders. It is past time to redouble care in opposition demonstrations (which must continue to occur), avoid provocations and reinforce the security of figures like Lula.
A resounding victory for the opposing candidate in 2022 will be important. Secure ownership even more.
There is not much to be done except to seek a “broad front”, trying to talk to everyone. Preserving, however, the left-wing character of the candidacy and the agenda for retaking rights and the 1988 Constitution itself.
An environment with such a level of polarization as the Brazilian one makes any so-called “third way” unfeasible.
Thus, if they will have to swallow Lula, the “bearded frog”, once again, there is no need to give up everything in the negotiations. It is a tenuous path between guaranteeing election, inauguration and governability on the one hand and maintaining a transformative agenda on the other.
In any case, a year in the conflagration of the Brazilian situation is equivalent to a century. It’s risky to make any predictions, but I’m risking one more here to conclude.
Recently, Bolsonaro stated at an evangelical event that he saw three alternatives in his future: “Being arrested, dead or winning”.
There is no doubt that all Democrats must fight for the defeat of Bolsonaro (his candidacy and his coup) and want him to preserve himself well and in health for when he is finally blamed and imprisoned for his crimes.