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Bolsonaro military

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is saluted by military leaders during a Day of the Soldier commemoration in the capital Brasília on August 25, 2021. (Photo: Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

House Dems Call for Suspension of Aid if Brazilian Military Attempts Election Coup

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's far-right president, has said he may not accept the results of this October's presidential contest if he loses.

Brett Wilkins

Amid fears that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro could attempt a military coup if he loses this October's presidential contest, a group of U.S. congressional Democrats this week proposed a measure that would suspend security aid to Brazil if its armed forces intervene in the election.

Brasilwire's Brian Mier first reported that Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 which, if approved, would require the secretary of state "to review actions by Brazilian armed forces related to that country's October 2022 presidential elections and to consider such actions under statutory guardrails on U.S. security assistance."

"It calls for the discontinuation of security assistance," an insider with knowledge of the measure told Mier. Such assistance to Brazil consists mostly of joint military exercises and six-figure financial support. U.S. President Joe Biden has requested $800,000 in international military education and training funds for Brazil next fiscal year.

The unnamed insider characterized the proposed NDAA amendment as "basically a way of saying, 'you need to consider whether these actions amount to a coup because, if so, that would necessitate cutting off U.S. assistance.'"

As Bolsonaro and his allies continue their unfounded attacks on the integrity of Brazil's electronic voting system, recent polls show him trailing former leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—who is running for the office again after being cleared of corruption charges last year—by double digits.

Bolsonaro, who decades ago declared his intention to stage a coup if he was ever elected president, has said he may not accept the results of the election if he loses under the current voting system.

His running mate, Walter Braga Netto, recently told a group of Brazilian business leaders that the armed forces will not honor the results of October's election unless the Superior Election Court changes the ballot system.

The last time there was a military coup in Brazil—many progressive observers consider the 2016 impeachment and ouster of former President Dilma Rousseff, also of da Silva's leftist Workers' Party, a political coup—it was backed by the United States.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a naval task force to the South American country as far-right elements of the Brazilian military deposed João Goulart, the democratically elected president, and his progressive government. Two decades of military dictatorship followed. The regime's forces were trained—including in torture—by U.S. agents.

Bolsonaro, a former army paratrooper who rose through the ranks during and after the dictatorship, has repeatedly praised the brutal regime, under which tens of thousands of people were tortured, murdered, and disappeared. He also infamously honored as a "national hero" a former army officer who tortured Rousseff when she was a young resistance fighter.

While serving as Bolsonaro's defense minister, Braga Netto—who rose to the rank of army captain during the dictatorship—once released an official statement arguing that the 1964 coup should be "understood and celebrated."

Marcelo Rubens Paiva—a Brazilian writer whose father, Rubens Paiva, was disappeared by the military dictatorship in 1971—tweeted earlier this week that Bolosnaro chose Braga Netto as his running mate "not to raise or aggregate votes, but to consolidate his power, with someone obedient and allied to a coup."

A group of Brazilian Jewish academics, jurists, and politicians this week published a manifesto calling on voters to "defeat Nazi sympathizers" by voting for da Silva in the first round, for "if there is a second round, [Bolsonaro] points to the possibility of a military coup."

"Bolsonaro made it very clear that he is not just any extremist," they wrote. "In his statements, he showed his contempt for women, Blacks, Indigenous people, LGBT+, and all minorities, and his willingness to fight—if possible to destroy—everything that was not in accordance with their militia lifestyle and pining for fascism."

The manifesto cited Bolsonaro's "deconstruction of human rights, salary squeezes and high prices, [and] contempt for science—which officially claimed the lives of almost 700,000 people" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also notes the return of hunger—which was largely eradicated during the Lula and Rousseff administrations—the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and murder of its Indigenous inhabitants and defenders, and the "gradual strangulation" of the press.

"We have reached the point where all of this can change," the statement's signers asserted. "The elections are approaching, although the militiamen—street or digital—organize themselves to silence the polls and the justice system."

"The polls will be the battleground and the vote our weapon," they added. "We have the obligation and the challenge to defeat fascism."

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