Explaining Brazil #155: Bolsonaro opens a military Pandora’s box

Amid the president's threats to ignore the results of a potential electoral defeat, seeing the Army cave to his will on a legal matter is very worrisome indeed

Hierarchy, order, and discipline are three of the pillars of Brazil’s military forces. But they have been shattered by President Jair Bolsonaro — who brought his former Health Minister, Army General Eduardo Pazuello, along with him to a political rally late in May. Amid the president’s threats that he would not accept the results of a potential electoral defeat, seeing the Army cave to his will on a legal matter is very worrisome indeed.

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  • Beatriz Rey is a research fellow at the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University and a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. She is also a columnist for The Brazilian Report.
  • Andre Pagliarini was a visiting assistant professor of modern Latin American history at Brown University in 2018–2019 and is currently a lecturer at Dartmouth College. He is preparing a book manuscript on 20th-century Brazilian nationalism.

Background reading:

  • General Eduardo Pazuello broke military rules by taking part in a pro-Bolsonaro rally — but escaped punishment. The ramifications could be severe for Brazilian democracy, says Beatriz Rey.
  • Breaking with the military hierarchy is nothing new for Jair Bolsonaro. We explain how the president himself was kicked out of the Army in the late 1980s.
  • In episode #138 of Explaining Brazil, we discuss the flaws with Latin American democracies. Only three countries qualify as “full democracies.” Just as many were classed as “authoritarian regimes.”
  • Generals remain the ultimate power brokers in Latin America. In episode #88, we talked to political scientist and Harvard professor Steven Levitsky about how politicians around the continent still use the Army as a legitimizing force — and how that weakens democracy.
  • Despite having risen to power through democratic means, Jair Bolsonaro represents risks for democracy, writes columnist Andre Pagliarini.
  • The anti-Bolsonaro struggle has reshaped political arrangements for 2022 Brazil, writes Alex Hochuli.

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