Opinion

Bolsonaro’s Armed Forces meddling ushers ghosts from Brazil’s past

The president interfered with the military to save a former cabinet member. Brazilian history shows this can lead to drastic consequences

armed forces president bolsonaro
The 1964 sailors’ revolt led to a rupture between the Armed Forces and then-President João Goulart. Photo: Folhapress Archive

Close observers of Brazilian society have always noted the political machinations of the Armed Forces. Indeed, they’ve had to, given the recurrent tendency of military men to involve themselves in politics beginning in the 19th century. Modernity, republicanism, national development — these were the universal aspirations soldiers invoked time and again when forcing themselves upon the body politic. 

When it comes to episodes like the 1889 military intervention that extinguished the monarchy and birthed the Brazilian Republic, or the 1922 revolts of young lieutenants dissatisfied with the prevailing order, “the tendency of the literature has been to explain behavior...

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