President Jair Bolsonaro has called on his supporters to take to the streets “for the last time” on the 7th of September. During the Liberal Party (PL) national convention on the 24th, their exclamations were heightened by suspenseful sound effects and an apotheotic soundtrack.
In his favor, he has the opportunity to resort to all sorts of patriotic symbols and military equipment, under the pretext of the celebrations of 200 years of Independence of Brazil. For analysts heard by the Brazil de factothere is a clear intention to turn the events in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro into “stages” for the elections that will take place on October 2, less than a month later.
As it appears behind former president Lula (PT) in all polls, the desired show of force may actually show a sign of “desperation” or the preview of a coup attempt, depending on the tone. of Bolsonaro’s speeches. This is the assessment of sociologist Paulo Silvino Ribeiro, a professor at the São Paulo School of Sociology and Politics Foundation (FESPSP), who says he believes more in the first alternative.
“Bolsonaro has not only stagnated in the polls, but in his latest demonstrations he has seen the number of supporters decrease. That is, he speaks more and more to the group that still insists on supporting him. And in order for him to maintain support, he is rehashing a permanent, or even an old-fashioned speech within his government, attacking democratic institutions”, he opines.
In addition, there is a conjunction of signs that Bolsonaro seeks to instill in his followers, such as the defense “to the death, if necessary” of “freedom” and the arming of the population “not to submit to injustice”. The question, for 7 de Setembro, is to know the form and intensity that these elements will appear in Brasília, where Bolsonaro participates, in the morning, in the traditional military parade with the presence of leaders of invited countries, and in the afternoon in the Rio de Janeiro.
The expectation is that the most significant gestures will be reserved for the capital of Rio de Janeiro, where the Armed Forces, military police and students from military and private schools were summoned to parade along with a record number of tanks and aircraft. The location has also been rescheduled and will be unprecedented. Instead of Avenida Presidente Vargas, downtown, the event will take place on Orla de Copacabana, a carioca postcard that became associated with Bolsonarist acts.
“As he realizes that the political context and conjuncture are unfavorable to his re-election, he ends up doubling the bet,” says Ribeiro, who mocks the veiled threats made by the top government officials, including generals such as the candidate for vice president. – Braga Netto presidency and the Minister of Defense, Paulo Sérgio Nogueira: “much of Bolsonaro’s bravado about the coup could have a great metaphor those old tanks releasing smoke that he paraded some time ago”.
Participation of the Armed Forces in the electoral system is “deviation of purpose”
In 2021, presidential speeches in Brasília and São Paulo were marked by attacks on the elections – “farce sponsored by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE)” -, offenses to magistrates and the promise of non-compliance with STF orders. unusual for ex-president Michel Temer, retreated and reduced the clash with another power as a mere “conflict of understanding”.
Historian Daniel Aarão Reis, a professor at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), believes that this year’s mobilizations will be numerically smaller, but regrets that progressive forces have not yet taken to the streets to curb authoritarian adventures.
His expectation lies in the act in defense of democracy scheduled for the 11th at Largo São Francisco, in São Paulo. On the occasion, the letter prepared by a group from the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo will be read and the participation of politicians, leaders and protesters identified with varied ideological spectrums is expected.
“We can never underestimate the right. There are many armed groups that can provoke some provocation. Bolsonaro is visibly convinced that he will not win, so he is looking for loopholes to tarnish the election,” he ponders.
His hypothesis is that the most radical Bolsonaristas can provoke opponents or even carry out some self-sabotage, aiming to create a social upheaval that makes possible the imposition of the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO). The emergency device, considered “infamous” by the historian, would need to be approved by the National Congress, but could impose itself on the electoral calendar with the right to military intervention to “restore order”.
According to Reis, the attempt to demoralize electronic voting machines has recently lost strength, including by concessions by the Electoral Court to the demands of the Armed Forces, such as the authorization to inspect the source code of the ballot boxes this Wednesday (3). A stance with the potential to escalate to a rupture with democratic institutions, an extreme scenario that he does not currently envision.
“We have a very strong tradition of military interventionism in Brazil, everyone knows that. However, these interventions in general need, at the very least, to have a certain cohesion with the floor above, and this cohesion is missing from Bolsonaro at this moment”, he identifies.
Patriotic myths are common in autocratic governments
The very idea that the proclamation of Independence was a heroic act of Dom Pedro I is identified by some historians as a social construction without ballast in the reality of the facts. The image immortalized in the famous painting “Independência ou Morte!”, by Pedro Américo, has played a central role in the patriotic references convenient to Brazilian elites over the years.
“This symbolism around the 7th of September, the flag, which symbolizes national identity, ends up feeding the Bolsonarista discourse (…) “Brazil is established as a country, but from an elitist, bourgeois, white, racist and that builds its national symbols, like 7 de Setembro itself”, explains Ribeiro.
Depending on the government, the celebrations around this date gain greater or lesser importance, according to historian Daniel Aarão Reis. He says that the festivities took on unprecedented dimensions during the Estado Novo, to the nationalist taste of Getúlio Vargas and, later, returned to being grand during the Military Dictatorship.
“Later, from the 1988 Constitution onwards, this celebration was always maintained, but losing relative importance. Now, with Bolsonaro, he resumed, reactivated the celebrations with this new ingredient, trying to summon his supporters to street demonstrations”, he acknowledges. .
For Ribeiro, by extrapolating his angry speech from the playpen to an important date, Bolsonaro is trying to convince him that he represents the set of ideas and values of the majority of the nation. Therefore, he considers that the “kidnapping” of national symbols by a portion dialogues with the creation of the symbols themselves with a “false” rhetoric of social cohesion.
With a rejection that already reached 67% in November and remains above 55%, Bolsonaro has less than two months to try to reverse his lack of credibility and without the support of the mainstream media, on the contrary. “This anti-Bolsonarism or this aversion to his name was a natural thing for the left (…), but not now. Now there are people who don’t vote for Lula, but who hate Bolsonaro. He’s going to need a lot of tanks, a lot of people to fill Copacabana, to be able to turn the tide”, he concludes.
Editing: Rodrigo Durao Coelho