Explaining Brazil #167: A nation holding its breath

In six days, pro-Bolsonaro supporters will stage demonstrations in multiple cities. The unfolding of Brazil's political crisis depends on how big the turnout will be

The Supreme Court’s powers come solely from the legitimacy other political actors grant it, in something of an institutional agreement that the court has the final say on all legal matters. However, President Jair Bolsonaro has done his best to chip away at that legitimacy and, next week, he will lead protests filled with demonstrators demanding the shutdown of the tribunal. 

On Sunday, one Supreme Court justice published a harsh reminder that armed insurrections are unbailable crimes not subject to the statute of limitations.

And things have reached the point where we are unsure how the government — or the barracks — would react to a firm ruling from the Supreme Court.

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  • Beatriz Rey is an SNF Agora Institute Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and an APSA Congressional Fellow. Beatriz holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and is a columnist for The Brazilian Report.

Background reading:

  • Listen to last week’s episode, “Will Brazil have its own January 6 riots?” We spoke to political analyst Alex Hochuli on the possible role the military police could play in Mr. Bolsonaro’s protests.
  • Concerns are growing over the role of the police in planned pro-Bolsonaro protests on September 7, explain Gustavo Ribeiro and Janaína Camelo.
  • As we explained in our latest Brazil Weekly newsletter, President Jair Bolsonaro is waiting for the perfect moment to openly disregard a Supreme Court ruling.
  • President Bolsonaro said he will join protests on Independence Day, and a state lawmaker in São Paulo claimed last week that military police officers from around São Paulo state have hired 50 buses to take troops to demonstrations in the state capital.
  • Mr. Bolsonaro’s recent radicalization comes as his re-election chances dip, according to polls. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva currently holds a 16-point lead over him.
  • After two and a half years of issuing strongly-worded statements against President Jair Bolsonaro’s attacks on democracy, members of high courts in Brasília have decided to take effective action against the far-right leader.

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