Former Brazil military chiefs implicate Bolsonaro in coup conspiracy

Former Brazil military chiefs implicate Bolsonaro in coup conspiracy
Former Brazil military chiefs implicate Bolsonaro in coup conspiracy

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - File photo of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaking with Army Commander Marco Antonio Freire Gomes as they attend a graduation ceremony at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy in Resende, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil November 26, 2022. — Reuters pic

BRASILIA, March 16 — The former commanders of Brazil’s Army and Air Force told police investigators that President Jair Bolsonaro summoned them twice to meetings to discuss a possible coup d’état after his election defeat in 2022, according to their testimonies released today by the Supreme Court.

Their accounts place Bolsonaro at the centre of a plot to declare martial law and stop leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva coming to power after he won the election that year.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Bolsonaro has denied attempting a coup in the days after his election defeat, which he never conceded. He left for the United States to avoid handing the presidential sash to Lula. Days later, his supporters stormed government buildings trying to provoke a coup.

Bolsonaro’s lawyers did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

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In their depositions, former Army commander Marco Antonio Freire Gomes and Air Force commander Carlos de Almeida Baptista said they both told Bolsonaro they would not support a coup, defusing any military backing for the then-president’s plans.

Both military chiefs implicated Navy commander Almir Garnier Santos in the coup plans. In several meetings, they said, the admiral said the Navy was ready to back Bolsonaro in a military uprising.

Garnier Santos has not spoken publicly about the investigation carried out by the Federal Police under instructions from the Supreme Court.

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Beyond the two military commanders, police have depositions by three other witnesses who directly implicate Bolsonaro as the main conspirator behind the attempted coup, a police source told Reuters.

The investigation will detail a chronology of Bolsonaro’s attempts to organise a coup with members of his government, including active and retired military officers, said the source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

The military commanders said the meetings with Bolsonaro took place in the presidential residence.

Freire Gomes said in his deposition that Bolsonaro presented a draft decree for declaring a state of siege. The retired general said it was the same draft text found by police on the computer of Bolsonaro aide Mauro Cid, who is under arrest and has entered a plea bargain with the authorities.

The two commanders were called to a third meeting with then Defence Minister Paulo Sergio Nogueira to discuss the draft decree. They testified that when they asked the minister if the text implied that president-elect Lula would be barred from taking office, Nogueira did not answer.

They then refused to consider the text of the decree. — Reuters

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