Brazil Inquiry Calls Bolsonaro ‘Author’ of Attempted Coup, Recommends Indictments

The congressional probe’s rapporteur said the former far-right president and his supporters are culpable for the “greatest attack on democracy in our recent history.”

By Brett Wilkins. Published 10-18-2023 by Common Dreams

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seen here at the U.N. General Assembly’s 74th session on Sept. 24, 2019, said Wednesday that the fires and deforestation in his country aren’t coming to an end. (Photo: Cia Pak/U.N.)

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was the “intellectual and moral author of a coup movement” that culminated in the January 8, 2023 attacks on government buildings, and he and scores of his supporters should be criminally indicted for their “willful coup attempt,” an inquiry by Brazil’s Congress concluded Tuesday.

The final report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Investigation (CPMI) into the attempted coup was presented Tuesday by Sen. Eliziane Gama, a member of the Social Democratic Party from the northeastern state of Maranhão and special rapporteur for the probe. Gama said the evidence indicates Bolsonao and many of his far-right supporters should be indicted for criminal association, political violence, violent abolition of the democratic rule of law, and coup d’état.

In short, Bolsonaro and his supporters are responsible for the “greatest attack on democracy in our recent history,” according to Gama.

“Brazilian democracy was attacked,” she said. “Masses were manipulated with hate speech; digital militiamen were employed to spread fear, disqualify opponents, and promote attacks on the electoral system; security forces were co-opted; there was an attempt to corrupt, obstruct, and annul the elections; a coup d’état was rehearsed; and, finally, desperate acts and movements of seizure were stimulated.”

“For those who took part in it—mentors, executors, instigators, financiers, omitted or conniving authorities—January 8 was a purposeful and premeditated attempt at a coup d’état,” Gama added. “There was but one goal… to destabilize the government, set the country on fire, cause chaos and political disorganization—and even, if necessary, a civil war.”

The inquiry found that Bolsonaro tried to persuade high-ranking military officers to join the coup, while officials close to the former president drafted documents that sought to give the putsch the “legal veneer that dictators dream so much of.”

The report also cited crimes including the December 12, 2022 attacks on vehicles and Federal Police headquarters in the capital Brasília, as well as an attempt by Bolsonaro supporters to blow up a tanker truck near the city’s airport later that month in a bid to sow chaos ahead of current Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s inauguration on New Year’s Day.

Besides Bolsonaro, the report names high-ranking officials in his administration, including former Justice Minister Anderson Torres and a pair of former defense ministers, Walter Braga Netto and Paulo Sérgio Nogueira de Oliveira. Former Navy Cmdr. Almir Garnier Santos and former Army Cmdr. Marco Antônio Freire Gomes are also listed, as are dozens of state security and law enforcement officials, businessmen, and others.

A panel of 32 federal lawmakers—most of them allied with da Silva or his left-wing Workers’ Party (PT)—are set to vote on the inquiry report Wednesday. If passed, it will effectively be a recommendation to prosecutors to pursue indictments.

Bolsonaro denies any wrongdoing. Responding to the report, Flavio Bolsonaro, his eldest son, wrote on social media that the inquiry “produced a biased report, full of errors and defects.”

“Everything on January 8 has the fingerprints and DNA of the PT,” he baselessly added. “There is no shortage of evidence and facts!”

Bolsonaro’s autocratic actions after his October 2022 election loss to da Silva have been compared to those of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Even before the attempted coup, many critics and supporters alike called the former Army captain—who has advocated a return to military dictatorship—the “Trump of the Tropics.”

Supporters of the defeated president blocked roads and organized demonstrations after the election, and on January 8 thousands of protesters stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace to contest what they called a “stolen” election by da Silva and his allies. Around 1,500 people were arrested in connection with the attacks.

In June, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) banned Bolsonaro from running for any public office for eight years over his abuse of power related to baseless claims of electoral fraud. The court found that Bolsonaro violated election law in July 2022 when he summoned more than 100 international diplomats for a nationally televised presentation in the official presidential residence, during which he disparaged the judiciary and claimed the country’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to hacking.

The congressional inquiry noted that Brazilian democracy has prevailed—for now.

“Against the coup plotters, the solidity of our institutional arrangement prevailed,” said Gama. But she cautioned that Bolsonaristas continue their attacks on democracy through lies, defamation, misinformation, fear, and fomenting hatred.

“The invasions of January 8 failed in their darkest goals. But the attacks on democracy continue,” she warned. “The 8th of January is not over.”


A congressional panel approved the CPMI inquiry by a vote of 20-11 Wednesday afternoon, paving the way for the prosecution of Bolsonaro and scores of his supporters for their alleged roles in the attempted January 8, 2023 coup and associated crimes.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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