The Bolsonarians dream of a coup

‘Armed Forces, you must save Brazil! Soldiers, intervene now! Help us, because the election has been stolen!” Alexandra Soares screams at the top of her lungs and stands with a few thousand other Brazilians in front of the Palácio Duque de Caxias in Rio, where the regional military command center is. She is holding a sign that says ‘Down with the Communists’. “Democracy is in danger! Lula belongs in prison, he cannot be our president,” she shouts, wiping the sweat from her face.

It is hot in the center of Rio and a diverse group of people have gathered for the demonstration. A week after the tense and polarized election, outraged supporters of President Bolsonaro are demonstrating against the victory of left-wing leader and ex-president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva.

Lula won by less than 2 percent from his arch-rival and far-right leader Bolsonaro. Since then, there has been anything but quiet in Brazil and that the bolsonaristas to accept the result. Angry truck drivers blocked roads in several states for days, threatening the supply of food to the cities. Only after the threat of heavy fines and penalties to the truck drivers, and after Bolsonaro urged them to stop the blockades, were they lifted. Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters took to the streets in various cities, both Wednesday on All Souls Day (a holiday in Brazil) and this weekend.

Also read this article: A new era begins for Brazil with the election of Lula

‘Failure and fraud’

As the first notes of the Brazilian national anthem blare from the loudspeaker of a balloon-decorated car, Laura Pio places her hand on her chest and begins to sing along with passion. Her eight-year-old daughter stands next to her and sings along as well. “It’s also about her future,” Pio says emotionally, pointing to her child.

“There’s been cheating, look,” and she shows a document on her phone with what she believes are the results of a number of cities. “What do you see behind Bolsonaro? Zero votes! It’s impossible. Bolsonaro has won votes everywhere there has been fraud!”

She has received the information through app groups such as Telegram, where supporters send each other information and call for demonstrations. Bolsonaro shared his disappointment with the result in a live broadcast on Facebook on Thursday. “Like you, I’m disappointed,” he said, visibly moved. He urged his supporters not to block roads, but encouraged them to demonstrate peacefully and especially en masse.

Polarization in Brazil has grown rather than diminished since the election

This message to his supporters followed Bolsonaro’s brief statement two days after the results. At first he had remained silent. He did not suggest the election result would be wrong or ask for a recount, even though there was only a narrow margin of two million votes between him and Lula. This initial silence was striking, especially since Bolsonaro’s political allies, including his vice president and the speaker of parliament, immediately recognized the result. The governors of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, also political allies, immediately recognized Lula’s gains. From abroad, US President Biden and French Prime Minister Macron reacted almost immediately to the result, which Brazilian analysts say contributed to Bolsonaro’s hold: although he would have openly doubted the result: he had no supporters left.

“Everyone has failed Bolsonaro, but we haven’t,” shouts Joana Leite, who sells hot dogs and tries to get through the crowd with her cart. “He will always be our president.”

Also read this article: ‘Only God can take the presidency from me’, how Bolsonaro is copying Trump in his campaign

breath out of the bottle

After repeated statements by Bolsonaro that he would not accept a loss, there were fears of a coup – he has been shouting for years that the army is behind him. Such an intervention by the army is what these supporters prefer to see – like a military coup in Brazil in 1964, in which a left-wing leader was democratically elected. It was the beginning of a military dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

Such a military coup does not appear to be an option now. Bolsonaro may have a following in the military as a former army captain and has placed thousands of people with military backgrounds in government posts, but the military, like business, enjoys mainly stability.

Bolsonaro’s years of attacks on institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Electoral Tribunal and Congress appear to have taken the wind out of the bottle with his supporters. As Lula and Bolsonaro’s associates begin the transfer of power in Brasilia next week – officially not until January 1, 2023 – Bolsonaro’s supporters have announced more protests and strikes. “We’re going on strike on Monday,” says Marcelo Freitas, who works at a large covered market in Rio.

Polarization has not diminished a week after the election and may even have increased. In the quality newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo tenants complained that their rent had been canceled after the landlord found out they had voted for Lula.

The intolerance towards the Lula voters can also be felt by the Bolsonaristas this Sunday. “I do not want to have contact with my sister at this time, who voted for Lula. We don’t talk to each other,’ says Alexandra Soares and waves the flag once more.

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