Since he ousted the extreme right from power, President Lula da Silva assures that Brazil “returned to normality”, but there is still a need to rebuild ties with the Army, which was very present in the previous government of Jair Bolsonaro.
Tensions will be, at least apparently, put to rest this Thursday during the parade of the Armed Forces on the occasion of Independence Day, an event chaired by Lula in Brasilia.
Under Bolsonaro’s mandate, the military played a leading role, including in high government positions.
Members of his electoral base, Bolsonaro counted on the military in his race for re-election against Lula in the 2022 elections, marked by strong polarization.
And it still remains to be clarified whether members of the Armed Forces played any role in the January 8 riot, when thousands of Bolsonaro supporters vandalized the headquarters of the three powers in Brasilia, calling for the military to overthrow the Lula government that had just taken office.
The president said on Tuesday that he wants the celebration of September 7 to once again be “for everyone,” in a climate of “democracy” and “unity.”
“There is a more civilized climate in the country,” said political analyst Marco Antonio Carvalho Teixeira, of the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
Military Police and Army officers stand guard at a camp of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, in January. Photo EFE
“The eve of the celebrations are proof of this: we have not seen tensions or threats of institutional rupture,” added Teixeira, alluding to the politics that marked Bolsonaro’s mandate.
Although Lula’s relationship with the military continues to be “very delicate,” he warned.
The Brazilian Armed Forces are considered close to Bolsonaro, a declared nostalgic for the dictatorship (1964-1985) who hired thousands of uniformed personnel in his administration.
“The vast majority of Armed Forces personnel would have preferred another president instead of Lula,” retired brigadier Paulo Chagas told AFP.
Especially in the reserve, many “idolize” Bolsonaro, the general added.
Lula, a former union leader who opposed the dictatorship and governed the country between 2003 and 2010, has experienced moments of tension with the uniformed men since returning to power on January 1.
After the riot in Brasilia, he fired the Army commander. And his government is promoting a bill to prohibit active military personnel from holding political positions.
Although he also made a gesture of peace by allocating 52.8 billion reais (USD 10.6 billion) to defense projects as part of a mega infrastructure investment program of almost USD 348 billion announced last month.
Lula, 77, enjoys an approval rating of 60%, amid encouraging economic data that has exceeded expectations.
Meanwhile, the opposition has remained relatively silent, especially since Bolsonaro came under investigation by the authorities in cases that could lead to him being imprisoned and was declared ineligible until 2030 for misinforming about the voting system.
In this context, and after decades trying to project a professional image unrelated to politics, the Armed Forces are going through an “enormous identity crisis,” said Nelson During, editor of the specialized website DefesaNet.
Military members who were part of Bolsonaro’s inner circle have been involved in some of the investigations surrounding the former president, including suspicions that they helped him divert jewelry that he received as official gifts from Saudi Arabia.
A parliamentary investigation into the riot in Brasilia tries to find out if the military participated in a coup plot after Bolsonaro’s defeat, including a close aide to the then president.
In April, Lula said that he felt “offended” with the military, but assured that he does not hold “a grudge.”
“This is no longer Bolsonaro’s army… it is the Brazilian army,” he said.
At the same time, the military was criticized by Bolsonaro supporters who expected their support in the January 8 uprising.
“We will never forget your betrayal, generals,” read one of the messages that went viral on social networks in recent days, calling on conservatives to “stay home” this September 7.