2022 Race

Police target pro-Bolsonaro businessmen for coup talks

businessmen coup talks Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes. Photo: Rosinei Coutinho/SCO/STF
Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes. Photo: Rosinei Coutinho/SCO/STF

The Federal Police on Tuesday are carrying out search and seizure operations targeting businessmen who support President Jair Bolsonaro — they have been known to exchange private messages defending a Bolsonaro-led coup d’état in the event of a Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva win in the October elections.

Last week, news website Metrópoles leaked messages sent by these high-profile businessmen in a WhatsApp group. One of them read “it is utopic to believe things can be solved peacefully.”

The police operation was greenlit by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who oversees investigations into anti-democratic demonstrations — and how illegal disinformation rings operate. Last week, he took office as Brazil’s chief electoral justice, at a time when the electoral system is under attack from President Bolsonaro and his acolytes.

Justice Moraes also subpoenaed the businessmen under investigation and authorized law enforcement to scrutinize their bank records. He froze their assets and ordered their social media accounts be blocked.

Since last year, Justice Moraes has said electoral courts will not tolerate movements against the democratic order nor will they allow candidates to flood public discourse with misinformation.

Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s third-eldest son (who played a role in the lead-up to the U.S. Capitol riot, as our Brazil Daily newsletter explained today), reacted on social media to the operation. “This is an attack on democracy in the middle of an electoral campaign. Censorship. There is no other word to describe [the operation]!”

Many observers fear President Bolsonaro will not accept electoral defeat and may try to overturn the election. Today’s operation may further increase tensions between the president’s camp and electoral authorities.

In 2018, the press revealed that businessmen financed an illegal bulk messaging scheme to share information in support of Mr. Bolsonaro and attack his adversaries.