Brazil: The January 8 copycat “insurrection” and the response of Lula (updated January 21, 2023)


1) Naiara Galarraga Gortázar (São Paulo), “Lula destituye a más de 80 militares del círculo presidencial tras el asalto a los poderes en Brasilia; El presidente de Brasil mantiene una difícil relación con la cúpula de las Fuerzas Armadas, acusadas de connivencia con los golpistas,” El País, el 19 debenero 2023 (12:29 EST):

2) Naiara Galarraga Gortázar (São Paulo), “ON THE NATIONAL CONGRESS IN BRAZIL: Lula removes more than 80 soldiers ;from the presidential circle after the assault on powers in Brasilia; The president of Brazil maintains a difficult relationship with the leadership of the Armed Forces, accused of collusion with the coup plotters,” El País, January 19, 2023 (12:29 p.m. EST);


3) Naiara Galarraga Gortázar (São Paulo), “El presidente Lula destituye al jefe del Ejército de Brasil en plena crisis de confianza: El mandatario elige como sustituto a un general que esta semana defendió en un discurso el respeto al resultado electoral y que las Fuerzas Armadas son una institución del Estado,” el 21 de enero 2023 (Actualizado: 16:53 EST);

4) Naiara Galarraga Gortázar (São Paulo), “President Lula dismisses the head of the Brazilian Army in the midst of a crisis of confidence; The president chooses as a substitute a general who this week defended respect for the electoral result in a speech and that the Armed Forces are an institution of the State,” El País, January 21, 2023 (Updated: 16:53 EST);

5) Anthony Faiola and Marina Dias, “Lula ousts head of Brazil’s army in wake of insurrection,” Washington Posr, January 21, 2023 (updated at 5:44 p,m. EST);


President Luiz Inácio da Siva (“Lula”), Brazil’s new President who took office on January 1, 2023, has taken decisive action following the January 8 “copycat” insurrection in Brasilia. He has fired some 800 mostly retired military officers associated with the presidency (Planalto).

Today, Saturday, he dismissed the commander of the Army (the land branch of the Armed Forces), General Júlio Cesar de Arruda, following a meeting with his Defense Minister and the heads of the three branches of the military (Army, Navy, and Air Force). Arruda apparently refused to take the steps demanded by President Lula to rid the army of pro-Bolsonaro elements some of whom faciltated the seizure of the Presidential Palace, the National Assemnly and the Supreme Court on January 8.

Lula played an important role in the transition from military dictatorship to democracy in 1985. He has quickly grasped the seriousness of the January 8 insurrection, which was aimed at provoking a pro-Bolsonaro coup’d’état.

Shocking details are now emerging. Brazilian democratic institutions held firm and are holding firm.

Lula has appointed General Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, who is the head of the southeastern military region, which includes the State of São Paulo, to be the new Commander of the army. General Ribeiro Paiva recently gave a strong speech in which he reaffirmed the apolitical nature of the Brazilian military, which is an organ of the state that is independent has an apolitical role to play under the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff remains in place, despite his participation–in full military uniform–in Donald Trump’s photo-op foray into Lafayette Square, and the fact that he continues to cross the bright line in civil-military relations by making political statements inconsistent with the policy of the Executive Branch. This week p, for example, Milley again made statements that were highly pessimistic about Ukraine’s ability to expel Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. These statements were completely at odds with the confidence in Ukraine and optimism expressed by civilian Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this week in Europe including at the Ukraine military contact group at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday, January 20.

Milley should either get back in his military lane and stay there, or President Joe Biden should replace him. There is no place under the U.S. Constitution for military officials, who are subordinate to their civilian bosses, to be going off on their own and making pronouncements independent of guidance from the civilian leadership.

Biden should probably have replaced General Milley by now. It is not too hate to do so. He should look to Brazil’s and Lula’s example.

In fact, Brazil is giving important lessons to the United States about how to respond to an attempted coup. The Supreme Court is already investigating former president Jair Bolsonaro for being behind or involved in the January 8 insurrection. He left the country before Lula’s inauguration, and has since then been firmly esconced in the U.S. State of Florida.

President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, in contrast, have dithered and dallied, and allowed a number of five-year statutes of limitation (e.g., for obstruction of justice) to run out for a number of felonies ex-president Donald Trump apparently committed early in his term. They have done so without comment or explanation.

President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland could and should learn a thing from Brazilian President Lula about how to defend democracy from right-wing insurrections and coup attempts, and about how to maintain proper civil-military relations.

The Trenchant Observer

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