Will Brazil update the coup to reflect 21st century democratic values?


Something is brewing in Brazil and it isn’t a traditional coup, reports Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly magazine. It’s disgust at years of scandal, misbehaving elected officials, wanton economic policy, and an utterly cynical values-free politics.

Mr Winter, who reported from Brazil from 2010 to 2015, recently returned to the country and was amazed at what he found. Previously, he writes, “I heard hardly anyone defend military rule – at least out loud. (But) today, with Brazil at the forefront of a global backlash against ‘elites’ and institutions, the military is increasingly perceived as the only credible vehicle for change.”

This may come, as increasingly happens in the 21st century, by streamlined methods. The ballot box. Mr Winter writes: “… traditional coup with tanks in the streets is almost unthinkable – a ‘relic of the 20th century’ as one military leader put it this week.”

Instead, the coup will occur democratically, by the apparent will of the people.

If you’re hearing echos of Egypt, that’s spot on. In India too, people often say the politicians make such a mess, it may be best to get the army in. That can sometimes be the consequence of having democratic choices. You can choose military rule. The Indians haven’t but could Brazil?

Mr Winter writes that “the presidential candidate most identified with the armed forces, retired Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, was already running first in polls.” And polls already show that people regard the armed forces as Brazil’s most respected institution.

Come October, if Mr Bolsonaro is elected, he will embody the change that Brazilians seem to want. Mr Winter points out  the retired captain’s strongman promises: He will “appoint military officials to key cabinet positions, roll back human rights provisions and give security forces ‘carte blanche’ to kill suspected criminals, among other measures.”

Military types are beaming. As Mr Winter writes, “Gen. Joaquim Silva e Luna, whom (President Michel) Temer appointed as Brazil’s first non-civilian defense minister in February, told Bloomberg News last week that he welcomed Bolsonaro’s candidacy. ‘Brazil is looking for someone with values … and they consider that the armed forces have these attributes,’ he said.”