Journalist Monica Gugliano reveals in Revista Piauí that on May 22, 2020, Brazil’s far-right president wanted to send soldiers to shut down the Supreme Court and replace its ministers, demonstrating how close Brazil was to a feared “auto-coup”.
With the institutional war between branches of Brazil’s government intensifying, a hitherto unknown story has come to light which shows just how close the country was to a complete democratic rupture in recent months. Rumours and statements from Generals within the government had exacerbated fears of what Bolsonaro had long threatened, even before he was President, of an auto-coup inspired by that of Peru’s Alberto Fujimori in 1992.
Based on four eyewitness accounts, Gugliano’s sensational report is a frightening insight into the dictatorial thinking of Bolsonaro’s inner circle. The report was published on the same day that a Supreme Court panel ruled that US-backed Judge Sérgio Moro had acted to help elect Jair Bolsonaro at the 2018 election, casting doubt on the legitimacy of his mandate.
The situation was triggered by the Supreme Court’s request for Bolsonaro and son Carlos to relinquish their mobile phones to be used as possible evidence in an investigation into an illegal fake news network which influenced the 2018 election.
Supreme Court Minister Celso de Mello had contacted the Attorney General’s office to enquire about possible confiscation of the Bolsonaro’s phones, and the president held his daily 9am meeting in fury. Present at the meeting were the military core of his government, chief of staff General Walter Braga Netto, close friend General Luiz Eduardo Ramos, and General Augusto Heleno, head of Institutional Security Office.
Bolsonaro was very clear: “I will intervene!”, he insisted.
Gugliano writes: “Bolsonaro wanted to send troops to the Supreme Court because the magistrates, in his opinion, were crossing the line in their decisions and storming his authority. In his mind, upon arriving at the STF, the military would remove the current eleven ministers. The substitutes, military or civilian, would then be appointed by him and remain in office “until that is in order”, in the words of the president. In the turmoil of the meeting, it was not clear how the troops would be deployed, nor whether, in Bolsonaro’s plans, the ministers dismissed from the STF would return to their positions when “that” was “in order”. At this point, he had also decided that he would not hand over his cell phone under any circumstances, even if he had to break a court order. “Only if I were a rat I would give my cell phone to him,” he said, making a comparison that he would use again, in public, during the day.”
The report reveals that General Luiz Eduardo Ramos welcomed the president’s intention to set off a catastrophic confrontation with the Supreme Court. He believed that intervening in the Supreme Court was the only way to reestablish the authority of the president, who had been openly vilified by the court.
Ramos believed that Alexandre de Moraes of the Supreme Court, which had prohibited Bolsonaro’s installation of Alexandre Ramage as director general of the Federal Police, had already gone too far.
Braga Netto and Augusto Heleno agreed that the minister’s decision was an unacceptable interference in the president’s authority, but they had doubts about such a blatant military intervention.
General Heleno told the President: “It is not the time for this”…