Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro speaks to the press as he leaves the federal police headquarters where he testified about his actions related to the attacks on government buildings in the capital Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, October 18, 2023.
RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian congressional panel on Wednesday accused former President Jair Bolsonaro of inciting the country’s Jan. 8 unrest and recommended that he be charged with attempting a coup.
An investigative panel of senators and representatives largely allied with current leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – who narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in last fall’s election – voted 20-11 to approve Senator Eliziane Gama’s damning report.
The move was largely symbolic for Bolsonaro as it amounts to a recommendation to police and prosecutors to open an investigation, and federal law enforcement officials have separately already been investigating his possible role in inciting the Jan. 8 uprising.
Bolsonaro denied involvement in the unrest, which came more than a week after the right-wing leader quietly left the country to stay in Florida while refusing to attend Lula’s inauguration.
“It is completely biased,” Bolsonaro said of the investigation in comments to reporters on Wednesday. “It’s an absurdity.”
A week after Lula took office, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, refusing to accept his electoral defeat. They bypassed security barricades, climbed onto roofs, broke windows and entered public buildings.
Many observers speculated at the time that the uprising was a coordinated attempt to oust Lula from office and that it could not have happened without the complicity of some military and police officers. Gama’s report agreed with these claims and went a step further by saying they were orchestrated by Bolsonaro.
The report recommends that Bolsonaro be indicted on a total of four counts, including attempting to overthrow a legally formed government and attempting to overthrow democratic rule. It also contains a number of other charges against dozens of Bolsonaro allies, including former ministers, senior military officials and police officers.
They include General Braga Netto, who served as Bolsonaro’s defense minister and then was his vice president; Anderson Torres, former Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Security in Brasilia; former Minister of Institutional Security, General Augusto Heleno; former Chief of General Staff Luiz Eduardo Ramos; and the chief of Brazilian defense, navy and armed forces.
Military and police forces have been blamed for failing to clear illegal encampments in several Brazilian cities where protesters have been calling for military intervention for weeks, and for being lenient toward demonstrators on Jan. 8.
“I cannot remember in Brazilian history a congressional investigation involving such a large number of high-ranking officers,” said Eduardo Heleno, who teaches civil-military relations at the Federal Fluminense University. Heleno said the report’s efforts to highlight the military’s alleged role in the unrest, even if passive, were in stark contrast to the 1979 amnesty law, which ignored human rights abuses during the dictatorship.
“Unafraid. This is how we end this (investigation), because courage is the raw material of civilization. No amnesty, so that something like this never happens again and so that we never forget what happened,” said Senator Randolfe Rodrigues on Wednesday before the occupation. His voice supports the report.
Nara Pavão, who teaches political science at the Federal University of Pernambuco, said Wednesday’s vote by lawmakers was an important step toward accountability, “even if it is symbolic.”
“It is very important to be able to take action against what happened,” Pavão said.
The 1,300-page report is the result of months of investigation by a panel that interviewed nearly two dozen people and collected hundreds of documents, including bank statements, phone records and text messages.
It provides a minute-by-minute account of the afternoon when thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed key government buildings in the capital following a protest march that began around 1 p.m
But the committee also examined the months and years leading up to the events – touching on increasing polarization and Bolsonaro’s repeated attempts to sow doubt about the reliability of the country’s electronic voting system, which he said was vulnerable to fraud, although he never provided evidence .
Bolsonaro “not only exploited public facilities, institutions and agents, but also exploited the vulnerability and hope of thousands of people,” the report says.
Source : www.npr.org