Sader: Bolsonaro has been neutralized but Military eyes 2022

“Bolsonaro made threats he couldn’t carry out about replacing the Health Minister and reopening commerce. Now he is isolated and everyone has turned on him, as General Villas Boas admits. He’s been reduced to impotence.” writes sociologist Emir Sader.

By Emir Sader

The new right wing strategy is a perversion of liberal democracy that relies on the media and the Judiciary. It is a coup cloaked in an institutional form that destroys democracy from the inside, and establishes another armored institutionality within, to prevent the left from returning to power. This name of this strategy is hybrid war.

In Brazil, the first act of this hybrid war was the coup against Dilma Rousseff, which took the form of an impeachment. There was no legal justification, but it was enacted with the complicity – the complicit silence – of the Judiciary. Democracy was broken as a means to take the PT out of the government and resume the neoliberal model. After four consecutive electoral defeats, Conservatives bet on the the shortcut of a coup.

The second act was the arrest and conviction of Lula without any proof, and the barring of his candidacy at a moment when he was expected to win the 2018 presidential election in the first round. The PT’s return to government through these elections was prevented by preventing Lula from running for office.

The third act was the monstrous operation over WhatsApp, which prevented Fernando Haddad from being elected president in a manner that was absolutely illegal according to Brazilian law. The right promoted Bolsonaro to the presidency in a shameful way.

Since Bolsonaro proved to be a good candidate for such an election, but a bad president, they had to solve the problem of governance. Bolsonaro has increasingly surrounded himself with both active and reserve military officers as key staff in his government. Many of them have found him incompetent, or have come into conflict with him.

The armed forces, instead of fulfilling its constitutional duty to guarantee national sovereignty,  transformed into an alternative power reserve for conservatives at a moment when their traditional political parties went into crisis. This also happened in 1964 and it lasted for more than two decades.

The military has participated in the Bolsonaro government since the beginning, occupying positions increasingly close to the presidency, and taking part in everything the government does, from its radicalization of the neoliberal model, to the privatization of public assets centered around the attacks against Petrobras. It waited for the government to weaken and surrounded Bolsonaro, initially putting limits on certain excesses and, finally, building an institutional siege.

There were those who spoke of Congress implementing a ‘white parliamentarism’, (a switch to a parliamentary system that would reign in presidential power) but what lies ahead is ‘olive green parliamentarism’. We now have a kind of prime minister in General Braga Netto, who has taken on the role of coordinator of all ministries and, especially, health policy, to prevent Bolsonaro from committing any more acts of madness.

The military coordination circling around Bolsonaro has already deflated his institutional importance. This group is already operating, as it did to prevent the firing of Health Minister Mandetta, and as it is doing to try to neutralize damage to relations with China, caused by the disastrous statements of Bolsonaro’s sons and ministers.

Bolsonaro made threats he couldn’t carry out about replacing the Health Minister and reopening commerce. Now he is isolated and everyone has turned on him, as General Villas Boas admits. He’s been reduced to impotence. It remains to be seen how he and his children will react.

The hybrid war now reaches a new stage – that of the government armoring itself to prevent the PT from winning the 2022 presidential elections. This is the next goal.

But they do not play alone. There are other players on the field, with their own contradictions. The maintenance of the neoliberal model, even more so in the midst of an economy which will be in hard recession by the end of this year, will lead to mass popular mobilizations in defense of the interests of all – most importantly, jobs. The government will be tempted to harden further and engage in open repression against popular protests.

And the left will benefit from the strengthening of the State, the public sector, the public health system, universities, public research centers, and feelings of solidarity with the most deprived, to propose that the reconstruction of our society can only take place with the protagonism of the public sphere, strengthening not weakening democracy and popular participation.

It will be a period of great political and ideological disputes, which will define Brazil’s horizons for several decades. Redemocratization will come with the defeat of this militarized government and the restoration of truly democratic elections.


By Emir Sader

Emir Sader is one of Brasil's most recognised Sociologists, Political Scientists & Writers, co-founder of the World Social Forum & on the Editorial board of New Left Review.