Congressional inquiry found Bolsonaro engineered coup attempt

2023 10 18 BRAZIL Bolsonaro scaled
Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro leaves the Federal Police headquarters after testifying about the January 8 riots, in Brasilia, Brazil, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazil’s former far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been accused by a congressional inquiry investigating the events of January 8th of being the mastermind behind a deliberate and premeditated attempt to carry out a coup, aiming to plunge Latin America’s largest democracy into political chaos, and potentially even civil war.

This striking allegation was put forward on Tuesday when Senator Eliziane Gama presented the inquiry’s final report regarding the failed right-wing uprising that occurred in January, where thousands of fervent Bolsonaro supporters went on a rampage in the capital, Brasília, after Bolsonaro failed to secure re-election.

However, experts are skeptical that this report, primarily seen as a symbolic political statement rather than a crucial element for future legal action, will have immediate legal repercussions for the former president and his associates.

The congressional committee itself lacks the authority to file charges against suspects. Instead, its findings will be submitted to the attorney general, who will decide whether any action should be taken.

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reportedly held meetings with top military officials in Brazil late last year to discuss a “putschist plan” for a military coup.

The inquiry’s extensive 1,333-page report recommends that Bolsonaro should face charges for four offences, which could result in a total prison sentence of 29 years: coup d’état, violent subversion of the rule of law, criminal association, and political violence. Similar accusations have been directed at numerous key allies of Bolsonaro, including three army generals who held prominent positions in his government and his former justice minister, Anderson Torres.

Bolsonaro, a former paratrooper in the Brazilian army known for his support of Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, has consistently denied any involvement in the events of January or any intention to stage a coup.

Nonetheless, Senator Gama, the rapporteur of the inquiry, stated that the committee’s investigations, documents, and testimonies had led them to one person while probing the effort to “corrupt, obstruct, and nullify” Brazil’s 2022 presidential election, and that person is Jair Bolsonaro.

The report characterises the events of January as the result of a complex and highly organised conspiracy aimed at maintaining Bolsonaro in power by overthrowing the government of his left-wing successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The report describes the attacks of January 8th, during which right-wing extremists ransacked the presidential palace, the congress, and the supreme court, as the culmination of this conspiracy.

The report asserts that “The 8th of January was a wilful and premeditated attempt to stage a coup d’état,” with the sole objective of destabilising the government, inciting chaos, and potentially even sparking a civil war if necessary. The conspirators hoped that by taking control of Brazil’s democratic institutions, they could provoke a military intervention in the form of a state of emergency to prevent the establishment of a supposed “communist dictatorship” in Brazil.

Senator Gama informed lawmakers that months of investigation had thoroughly demonstrated that Bolsonaro, who served as Brazil’s president from 2019 until the end of the previous year, was the intellectual or moral architect of these efforts.

It is believed that the most significant legal jeopardy facing Bolsonaro is an ongoing federal police investigation that is examining his alleged role in the events of January. Ten months after the attacks, police investigators continue to pursue those responsible for what the congressional inquiry referred to as Brazil’s “day of disgrace.”


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