A group of 158 politicians and activists from 27 countries, including parliamentarians and former presidents, released an open letter warning of “insurrection” and risks to Brazilian democracy during the Sete de Setembro protests led by president Jair Bolsonaro (no party) .
“We are very concerned about the imminent threat to Brazilian democratic institutions, and we will be vigilant from September 7th onwards. Brazilians have struggled for decades to guarantee democracy before the military regime, and Bolsonaro cannot be allowed to steal that from them now.”
For the signatories of the letter, released on Monday (6/9), the demonstrations called by Bolsonaro and his allies, such as “racist groups, military police and federal government authorities”, seek to intimidate institutions such as the Supreme Court (STF) ) and Congress and heighten fears of a coup d’état in the world’s third largest democracy.
The Brazilian president, as the document cites, has increased his authoritarian threats. He has publicly said several times that he may prevent presidential elections from being held in 2022. Polls of voting intentions point to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) as the favorite.
In his statements, Bolsonaro has left aside the defense of the printed vote (a proposal that was defeated in Congress) and started to accuse STF ministers of acting outside the Constitution, which would serve as a pretext for acting “outside the four lines of the Constitution”.
Signatories of the open letter against the September 7 protests cite a message shared by Bolsonaro that speaks of a “counter-coup” against Congress, the judiciary and the left, which would have, without providing evidence, persecuted the president and drained his power.
Bolsonaro, his sons and allies became targets of investigations on suspicion of being linked to democratic acts, attacks on Supreme Court ministers and dissemination of false information, among other accusations. In addition, the STF also ensured that mayors and governors acted autonomously in the covid-19 pandemic, which Bolsonaro sees as an attack on their prerogatives.
The document on the risks of protests in Brazil was signed by 158 political leaders and activists, including José Zapatero (former prime minister of Spain), former presidents Ernesto Samper (Colombia), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Martín Torrijos (Panama) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador), as well as parliamentarians from countries like the United Kingdom, USA, France, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Greece and New Zealand.
In the letter, the signatories compare the September 7 protests with the invasion of the United States Congress on January 6, 2021 by supporters spurred on by then-President Donald Trump, who did not accept defeat at the ballot box for Joe Biden.
The act, which ended up with five deaths, was considered an attempt at a coup d’état by some politicians and specialists in trying to prevent the officialization of the results of the polls.
After the violent invasion of the US capital, dozens of protesters were eventually identified by the police and sentenced to prison for their participation in the insurgency.
Fears of violence in Brasília and SP on the 7th of September
The protests scheduled for September 7 in Brasília and São Paulo, mainly, have raised fears of physical and patrimonial violence.
To try to mitigate the risk of protesters trying to invade Congress and the Supreme Court, or even throwing homemade bombs on buildings, the DF Government decided to restrict the acts to the Esplanade of Ministries.
This means that the demonstrators will not be able to “go down” the avenue towards Praça dos Três Poderes, where the Palácio do Planalto, the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court are located.
In São Paulo, where Bolsonaro will also speak, a strong security scheme is planned to accompany the demonstration on Avenida Paulista and avoid violent clashes with protesters linked to left-wing groups a few kilometers away, in the Anhangabaú valley. Acts such as the Cry of the Excluded traditionally take place on September 7, a national holiday in honor of the country’s independence.
Possible participation of military and military police
If they do not comply with this rule, they can be included in the Military Penal Code for crimes of riot or revolt (when there are two or more involved). And the sentences can reach 20 years in prison in a closed regime.
But a significant number of reserve or off-duty officers are expected to attend the protests.
Experts explain that the law allows any citizen to request changes in public policies, as long as it is done in a democratic way. But that is not the case, according to them.
“It is not a request for a change in public policy. It is clear between the lines that they want a break in democracy. It is a speech as if it were pro-democracy, but they ask that there not be a Congress that hinders Bolsonaro, without STF and without one Independent Judiciary,” said Luiz Alexandre Souza da Costa, political scientist, professor at UERJ and retired Military Police major in Rio de Janeiro, in an interview with BBC News Brasil.
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