Lula government deposes General Julio Cesar de Arruda, head of the Brazilian army, after the uprising

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RIO DE JANEIRO – President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Saturday ousted the head of Brazil’s army and opposed the top military officer to be held responsible after the January 8 uprising, when right-wing rioters rampaged through this country’s halls of power.

The order to sack General Júlio Cesar de Arruda was given by Lula’s defense minister, José Múcio, according to a senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

Arruda’s removal came six days after The Washington Post reported that he had tried to protect rioters and supporters of defeated former president Jair Bolsonaro. Congress.

Commenting on Arruda’s firing on Saturday night, Múcio suggested that Arruda’s behavior on the night of January 8 was one of the reasons for Arruda’s firing.

“After these last episodes, the issue with the camps, the issue of January 8, relations with the army command suffered a breakdown in the level of trust. And we had to stop that from the start,” Múcio told reporters in Brasília as he stood next to Arruda’s replacement, General Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva.

But even after the night of the riots, Lula had tried to avoid direct conflict with Arruda, said a senior judicial source who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

The official said Lula acted after Arruda refused his order to fire a former senior Bolsonaro aid worker, Colonel Mauro Cid, who also commanded an army battalion in the town of Goiânia.

The decision could now heighten tensions between Lula and the military, which, along with Brazil’s police forces, is widely believed to harbor strong sympathies for Bolsonaro – a right-wing ideologue and former army captain who has left the ranks of his cabinet and key civilian posts at former members of the armed forces.

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Lula’s government has already fired or forced into retirement at least 40 other regular military personnel involved in protecting the presidential palace on the day of the Bolsonaristas attacks – as Bolsonaro’s backers are called.

Judicial authorities are now investigating alleged dereliction of duty and possible collusion with rioters by the military and security forces. The evidence under investigation includes the actions of military officials on the night of the riots, a change to the security plan before the insurgents gathered outside federal buildings on Jan. 8, the inaction and fraternization of police as rioters began entering the buildings to go, and the presence of a senior military police officer who had told superiors he was on vacation.

“The January 8 riots exposed Lula’s vulnerability to the military,” said Guilherme Casarões, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo. “They have been complicit in the pro-Bolsonaro movements that have been growing since the election results came out. They have also been key players in spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories against the government they are supposed to serve.”

The January 8 attack in Brazil echoed the January 6, 2021 uprising in the US Capitol. As in the United States, Brazil’s rioters were driven by false allegations of electoral fraud. Like Trump — a close ally and political leader of the 67-year-old former leader who was defeated on Oct. 30 — Bolsonaro has also refused to admit defeat.

But the military’s possible complicity, or at least its sympathy for the rioters, has made the dynamic more dangerous for Lula. Many of the rioters are said to have been residents of a protest camp that emerged at the army headquarters in Brasília on the night of the October 30 elections, when Bolsonaristas falsely claimed that the defeated president had been robbed.

On the night of the riots, Lula government officials say, the president’s chief of staff, his justice and defense ministers and other senior officials arrived at the Space Age Army headquarters to negotiate the detention of insurgents and others at the protest camp .

“You’re not going to arrest people here,” Arruda told Lula’s attorney general around 10:20 p.m., The Washington Post reported Jan. 14.

After initially refusing, military commanders agreed to allow security officers under Lula’s control to raid — but not until 6 a.m. the next day. Officials say they believe this gave the military time to warn hundreds of relatives and friends to leave.

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Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on January 13 to open an investigation into Bolsonaro as part of its investigation into the “instigators and intellectual authors” behind the January 8 attacks. Bolsonaro, currently hiding out in Florida, spent much of his four-year tenure undermining confidence in Brazil’s reliable election system. Bolsonaro has denied any ties to the rioters and has condemned political violence.

Arruda will be replaced by General Paiva, the military commander for the Southeast. In a speech this week, Paiva called on Brazilians to respect the results of the October elections and affirmed that the military is a non-political and non-partisan institution.

Lula had publicly expressed distrust of the military after January 8, but aides had said he would not fire the commander until the investigation was completed to avoid increasing tensions between the executive and the armed forces.

On Friday, Lula met with Arruda and the commanders of the navy, Marcos Sampaio Olsen, and the air force, Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno. The meeting was intended to ease tensions early in his reign.

Lula, observers say, will now have to balance his lenders’ expectations for justice with the need to ensure he doesn’t further alienate his senior boss.

Lula’s supporters expect the president to go on a witch hunt against Bolsonaristas in the army. [but] anything that can stir up bad blood between generals and the government will have dramatic political consequences for a president whose main job is to bring the country together,” Casarões said.

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