Brazil is at the mercy of open warfare between the Supreme Court and President Jair Bolsonaro. The president is supported by followers who promoted anti-democratic threats — including death oaths against the Supreme Minister, Alexandre de Moraes — in the summons for the September 7 acts. With opposition demonstrations scheduled for the same day in São Paulo, and with the indigenous encampment in Brasília for two weeks, the fear is that some spark will be ignited, generating irreversible chaos.
On Monday night, the Pocketnarista protesters managed to overcome the first containment barrier set up by the Federal District Military Police, and reached the Esplanade of Ministries. Images show the president’s son, Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP), taking selfies with supporters. Even the minister Damares Alves, from the Human Rights portfolio, allowed herself to be photographed and be ‘gay’ along with the pocketnaristas who took over the Esplanada, as shown in the videos she shared on her social networks.
The euphoria, however, exposed scenes of a policeman showing a gun to contain the president’s most enthusiastic voters who wanted to push the limits imposed by the bars in that area. Among political leaders, there is already the concern of clashes that could provoke “a corpse”, at a time when the spirits are burning among the pocketnaristas – many defend the closing of Congress or a military intervention, with Bolsonaro as president. “All the indications we have is that Bolsonaro wants to produce one or more corpses. It can happen that police officers, bandits, a dangerous minority, are infiltrated to kill a lady or a child, to create an environment of institutional chaos, to try to change the logic that is today beckoning to a devastating defeat”, warned Ciro Gomes, pre -candidate for the presidency of the Republic by the PDT, this weekend.
While Bolsonaro lets the provocations run wild, the STF acts to prevent the radicalization of the president’s followers who made concrete threats to Alexandre de Moraes. Since the weekend, Moraes, responsible for the inquiry that investigates undemocratic acts, accepted the arrest requests of the pocketnaristas who threatened him with death through social networks and ordered the blocking of accounts of at least two rural entities suspected of financing the acts, in addition to authorize the search and seizure in the homes of investigated for encouraging acts of violence against ministers of the court.
On Monday, former police officer Cassio Rodrigues de Souza was arrested, who threatened to kill Moraes and his family via Twitter. On Sunday, it was the turn of Marcio Giovani Niquelatti, who said live on social networks that a businessman offered money for the head of the STF minister, “dead or alive”. Other supporters of the president who worked in the organization of the events of the 7th, such as the pocket blogger Wellington Macedo and the truck driver Marcos Antônio Pereira Gomes, known by the nickname Zé Trovão, were also the target of preventive arrest warrants at the request of Moraes, on the 3rd of September. Gomes, who is on the run, recorded videos and posted undemocratic content, such as “justice begins by cleaning up the 11 justices of the Supreme Court”. His lawyer said he must not turn himself in before the acts scheduled for Tuesday, defying the court order.
In the early hours of Friday, the publicist Alexandre da Nova Forjas was taken to a police station in São Paulo, where an incident report for injury was registered. According to a newspaper report The State of São Paulo, he referred to Alexandre de Moraes as “PCC lawyer”, and said that the protesters would “close the STF”. The offenses were witnessed by a security guard from the magistrate’s personal escort, who was at Clube Pinheiros, where the insults took place. He then reportedly called the PM, who took Forjas to testify.
On Sunday, it was the turn of Deputy Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP) to be heard by the PF about her role in calling the acts on the 7th. decisions, emulating a thesis of the president himself according to which the magistrate “would not be acting within the four lines of the Constitution”. Both the parliamentarians and the pocketnarista militants targeted by the STF’s inquiries defend themselves, saying that they are just exercising their freedom of expression, and that every public figure is liable to be criticized. However, Brazilian jurisprudence prohibits threats against the powers of the Republic or its members. Soon, these radical sympathizers of the president would be committing a crime.
Protection for videos that spread lies
Bolsonaro even published a message this Monday morning asking for “peace and harmony” during the acts of the 7th, but his rehearsal to calm the spirits lasted a few hours. The president signed an interim measure that makes it difficult to remove videos that propagate lies on social media, something that directly benefits his base of radical voters who justify the attack on the court — and even death threats — as “freedom of expression”. In practice, he changed the Marco Civil da Internet, a legislation that was debated for years in the National Congress and is considered one of the most complete legislation in the sector in the world. Nos últimos meses, Bolsonaro e sua claque têm sido alvo de ações de empresas como YouTube, Facebook e Twitter por propagarem desinformação, entre elas a de que determinados medicamentos poderiam ser usados no tratamento da covid-19, ou, ainda, que as urnas eletrônicas are insecure and that and elections are rigged.
Among lawyers, there is a feeling that the president has violated one of the main rules for issuing provisional measures, that of urgency and relevance. “What he achieves with this MP is to create more tension between the powers, if the MP is returned by the Senate or suspended by the STF, and continues governing by lies”, says the lawyer and legal coordinator of Rede Liberdade, Juliana Vieira dos Santos.
Attorney Gabriel Vinicius Carmona Gonçalves, a professor at Mackenzie’s graduate program, follows the same line. “The issuance of a provisional measure in the whirlwind of recent events only creates more legal uncertainty on a matter that is widely debated nationally and internationally, which reinforces its unconstitutionality.” Attorney Santos also points out that social networks have 30 days to adapt to the new content removal limitations; therefore, in practice, nothing changes for the September 7 acts.
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The role of PMs
One of the biggest concerns surrounding the acts called for this Tuesday has to do with the adhesion of military police officers to the protests. It would be a fertile field for a contagion effect of the bellicose climate among armed agents. Since his days as a federal deputy, Bolsonaro has always sought to get closer to the troops, visiting barracks and participating in graduation ceremonies. In recent years, the president has consolidated a strong base of support within the corporations, arousing in governors the fear that there may be insubordination within the ranks of their police — such as the riot that occurred in Ceará in 2020. In a statement, the Government of São Paulo informed that Governor João Doria and the Attorney General of Justice, Mário Sarrubbo, will monitor the policing scheme during the acts in the capital from the PM’s Operations Center. “About 4,000 military police officers will work on Avenida Paulista and in the Vale do Anhangabaú”, says the text.
Fears of insubordination are not unfounded. A survey by Atlas Inteligência that heard 511 police officers from all regions of Brazil shows that 25% said that they “certainly will participate” in this Tuesday’s acts, while 47% answered that they “certainly will not participate”. Among those who answered that they should go to the streets, 30% are military police, 17% are civil police and 15% are from other forces. Data from the survey points to the radicalization of sectors of the troop: 26% of the police officers interviewed declared they were in favor of installing a military dictatorship in Brazil, a number that jumps to 34% when only the PMs are taken into account. The survey has a margin of error of more or less than four percentage points.
“Military police officers are mostly pocketnaristas, there is a very strong identification of the troop with the president and his agendas”, says retired lieutenant colonel of the São Paulo Military Police, Adilson Paes de Souza. According to him, the presence of PMs “from active and retired, in plainclothes or in uniform, carrying weapons” in the acts this Tuesday is not improbable, and should be a factor of concern for society and authorities. “What needs to happen is the immediate identification and punishment of these police officers, whether officers or soldiers. Both disciplinary and penal punishment”, says Souza.
The situation has gained more dramatic contours in recent weeks as active and reserve PMs have increased their call for actions on the 7th. In São Paulo, Doria dismissed PM commander Aleksander Lacerda due to indiscipline. The military man was in charge of the Interior Policing Command 7, in Sorocaba, in the interior of the state, and he was leading a call for the actions of Bolsonaro with an anti-democratic bias on social networks. The participation of police officers wearing a uniform or any insignia of the corporation in political acts is prohibited by the internal regulations of these organizations. Failure to comply with this determination may constitute a crime of mutiny, with prison sentences of up to 20 years.
Although Bolsonaro enjoys high popularity among the police, Lieutenant Colonel Souza considers it a mistake to associate this approval by the president with an eventual defense made by him of the causes and flags of the troop. “Since he was a parliamentarian, Bolsonaro has never done absolutely anything in favor of the rights of police officers, not even from the social security point of view or improving working conditions,” he says. “What happens is the identification of the police with the president’s flags, with the president’s figure. It has nothing to do with improving your life situation or within the corporation”.
In any case, the president found in the demonstrations in his favor a space to increase the threats to play outside the Constitution. For days he has been investing in dramatic rhetoric that help him escape criticism of his administration and revelations of suspected corruption against him and his family. “I have three alternatives for my future: be in jail, get killed or win,” he told his voters a week ago. The fear is that his troops will lend themselves to extreme situations that are used by Bolsonaro as a justification for increasing his authoritarian pressure.
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