The organization of caravans towards the protests in Brasília with the participation of military police officers from other states and the tense atmosphere in the relationship between part of the troops and governments opposing President Jair Bolsonaro in the Northeast are at the center of concerns regarding the Pocketnarist protests of 7 February September.
In Mato Grosso, there are reports of active police officers enrolled in caravans that will leave Cuiabá for the Federal District. In private groups, police officers from Bahia also organize themselves to go to Brasília and to participate in the event planned for Salvador.
State governments monitor possible acts of indiscipline, but publicly state that there is no climate for concern.
Meanwhile, prosecutors of the Military Justice and even judges have moved to curb the presence of active MPs in the acts, reiterating laws and regulations that prevent demonstrations of a party-political nature.
Some even evoke the consequences of undemocratic actions under the Military Penal Code, which provides for penalties of 2 to 8 years in prison for crimes such as incitement to indiscipline, conspiracy and mutiny. Ultimately, these crimes also lead to the exclusion of the PM.
“It is necessary to shield the police from the attacks of bad politics, which follows the primer of the worse the better”, says retired colonel Nylton Rodrigues, former commander of the Espírito Santo Military Police, summoned to assume the force in the face of the 2017 strike.
“Cops must be aware because [o chamado para os atos] it’s the siren song. Politicians want to build their capital on the ashes of the population and the troops themselves. And there are still lawsuits and serious health problems for the MPs”, he says, for whom Espírito Santo has matured since the strike five years ago.
Officially, corporations refute the thesis of adherence of parts of the troops to the acts, while officials and enlisted persons in some states admit that there are active colleagues expressing support for the president in groups and social networks.
In addition to sympathy for a president who praises police officers in an insistent manner, even though he has not delivered campaign promises, the category’s movements are driven less by ideology than by problems such as low wages, poor working conditions and lack of recognition.
“What police officers complain about is recognition of the work they do, risking their lives. When there is a punctual slip, a generalization is made. The entire institution ends up being execrated, and the police resent it,” says retired colonel Washington França da Silva, director-president of the Brazilian Institute of Security and Justice.
When these needs are aligned with opposition governors, the situation becomes more delicate, as in the insurgencies that took place in the police forces of Ceará, Pernambuco, Bahia and Alagoas.
Another example of this tension is the case of São Paulo colonel Aleksander Lacerda, who expressed support for the pro-president’s actions in the networks while attacking Governor João Doria (PSDB), officially the commander-in-chief of the PM.
Now, the troops of these states are those closely monitored, but also subject to political forces coming from the PM and interested in the political capital of the 7 September demonstrations.
“The candidates of 2022 are radicalizing. They want to position themselves to attract troop loyalty with promises of protection and privileges. They use the ideological agenda to justify the corporate issue”, explains Leandro Piquet Carneiro, coordinator of the School of Multidimensional Security at USP’s Institute of International Relations.
For José Luiz Ratton, professor of the sociology department at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco), “deputies and former police deputies from the police and who are candidates in 2022 are interested in seeing a lot of people on the street.” But, according to him, it is necessary to remember that “the police are not monolithic”.
“A command external to the police, such as pocketbookism, is not a direct transmission belt. Because he finds an environment already full of other internal disputes about mechanisms of ascension, control and governance”, he says.
“This alleviates the idea that it is possible to mobilize the police in an eventual rupture of the democratic order.”
In Ceará, the relationship between troops and government remains tense since the mutiny that paralyzed the Military Police in February 2020 and caused an escalation in the number of violent deaths.
The state secretary of Public Security, Sandro Caron, says he doesn’t see signs of police articulation for the protests, but he says the government remains alert.
The Legislative Assembly installed a CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry) to investigate whether the funds received by PM and Firefighters associations were used to finance the riot.
State deputy Salmito Filho (PDT), president of the CPI, says that the experience with the 2020 mutiny makes Ceará more prepared to face possible acts of indiscipline.
The number of security agents denounced by the riot has already exceeded 400, and the Legislature has approved a PEC (proposal to amend the Constitution) that prohibits amnesty for mutinous police officers.
President of Aspramece, an organization that represents publics in Ceará, retired sergeant Pedro Queiroz says that part of the troop is distressed by the possible punishments and says that “the relationship between the state government and security forces is not friendly”.
The electoral component carries even greater weight in the state, as the main opposition name is federal deputy Captain Wagner (Pros), who rose in politics after leading a police riot in 2012 and is a pre-candidate for government in 2022.
In Bahia, the state government assesses that the climate is relatively calm. But there is movement among reserve police with electoral intentions and that encourage the adhesion to the demonstrations.
Leader of the riots of the Military Police of Bahia in 2012 and 2014, state deputy Soldado Prisco (PSC) criticizes the escalation of violence in Bahia during Rui Costa (PT) and demands dialogue with police associations, entities that are not recognized by the government Bahia.
“The governor preaches democracy, but in practice he acts like a dictator.”
State deputy Capitão Alden (PSL) endorses the criticisms and recognizes that part of the troop must participate in the demonstrations in Salvador: “Behind the uniform, we are also Brazilian citizens supported by the same Constitution.”
Opponents in the 2018 elections, Alden and Prisco announced two weeks ago an alliance for the 2022 election. The union was sealed at a time when other police officers are rehearsing candidacies and has also encouraged adherence to the 7th of September.
Bahia registered military riots in 2001, 2012 and 2014 and episodes of tension such as the death of soldier Wesley Soares, in March of this year.
He was shot after spending four hours shooting into the air and shouting slogans at Farol da Barra, Salvador, and shooting a rifle at policemen negotiating his surrender.
Soares is treated as a kind of martyr among part of the troop. At Pocketnarist protests, there are posters with his photo and prayer wheels in his honor.
In May, a colonel exonerated from a command post recorded a video with a gun in hand, surrounded by other armed police officers, in which he criticized his removal and said that “Brazil’s Military Police are true guardians of the democratic rule of law.”
Major working in the Military Police of Bahia, Dequex Araújo says he does not believe in possible acts of indiscipline by police officers: “The last strike attempt, in 2019, was just a spark. The troop is more mature. I don’t see the climate for any situation of abnormality”, says he, who is a member of the Brazilian Institute of Public Security.
In Pernambuco, the climate of tension between government and troops rose a notch after a demonstration against President Bolsonaro was ended with tear gas and rubber bullets in the streets of downtown Recife on 29 May.
The act took place peacefully, but a garrison of the Military Police riot police blocked the street at the end of the route. Two men lost sight in one eye after being hit by rubber bullets. The general commander of the PM was dismissed by Governor Paulo Câmara (PSB).
For Ratton, from UFPE, “the lesson of these demonstrations is that governments are attentive to establishing controls over their police forces.” “If control mechanisms are not established, it is a disaster.”