Brazil: High Command of the Armed Forces Imposes General as ‘Operational President’

By Jakob Stein

Last week Brazilian ministers, military commanders, and President Jair Bolsonaro negotiated a deal wherein General Walter Souza Braga Neto, Chief Minister of the Civil House, will be made the new President. The announcement came as growing discontent over Bolsonaro’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak reached a breaking point within the government.

The appointment of Braga Neto signifies a serious advance in what the revolutionary Brazilian newspaper A Nova Democracia (AND) refers to as the “preventative counterrevolutionary coup.” Since his election, there has been a rift within the right-wing of the reactionary old state between Bolsonaro and the High Command of the Armed Forces.

The two factions share many of the same positions, such as the continued exploitation of workers and poor peasants, service to US imperialism, and the violent repression of popular rebellion, they only differ in how they intend to carry these out. The fascist Bolsonaro and his far-right allies advocate for an open military dictatorship to fight the rising tide of popular protest, while the High Command wishes to do so by appealing to the center-right and keeping the appearance of democracy, albeit in a deformed fashion.

While the shadow military government composed of generals at several key posts have already been dictating the fundamental aspects of government policy, the imposition of General Braga Neto demonstrates the generals’ further consolidation of power. Over the past several months they have been working to isolate Bolsonaro in both the political and military spheres, which has been aided by the mainstream press and his deteriorating public support. After months of work, the generals have been able to dispense with the need to cautiously manage Bolsonaro and have instead elected to rule directly through General Braga Neto.

Although many phony ‘socialist’ electoral parties have just begun to see and analyze the coup, Brazilian revolutionaries with AND have been denouncing the plans for such a military takeover since September 2017, stating:

“No political reform that can be approved at this congress can save you from your bankruptcy, nor can the military intervention that is planned as the ultimate way out of imperialism in the name of ‘order and patriotism’ be able to, since the Armed Forces are the core of this genocidal state” (bolded words are theirs).

The revolutionary publication has, in fact, raised the issue of a preventative military coup repeatedly over the years, stating in the March 2018 editorial “Military intervention and coup d’etat”:

 “The federal decree of military intervention in Rio de Janeiro, covering the entire sphere of security, including civil police, firefighters, and the prison system, is one more step in the direction of the preventive counterrevolutionary military coup d’état to a future and inevitable popular insurgency that already plagues the Washington-Brasilia axis. Ultimately, it is a trial balloon in preparing national and international public opinion for it.”    

The Editorial Board of AND had predicted the inevitability of such a military coup through a thorough scientific analysis of the material conditions in Brazil. They understand that the reactionary old state’s waning legitimacy in the eyes of the masses is directly tied to the deepening crises of US imperialism and bureaucratic capitalism, which ultimately necessitates the withdrawal of so-called ‘democratic rights’ in favor of brutal repression against the wave of popular rebellion that has swept Brazil and many other parts of Latin America over the past year.

Bolsonaro himself was deemed a useful puppet by the High Command of the Armed Forces for a certain amount of time, but now that is over. Bolsonaro will likely try to rebuild support and impose himself politically, however this is hampered by various scandals including his ties to reactionary paramilitaries, as well as his eldest son Flavio’s implication in the embezzlement and laundering of public funds.

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