Social media blunder shines light on latest rift in Bolsonaro government

. Apr 22, 2019
Social media blunder shines light on latest rift in Bolsonaro government President Jair Bolsonaro and VP Hamilton Mourão. Photo: PR

In the 2018 election campaign, Jair Bolsonaro was portrayed as a man faithful to the military, having once served as an Army captain. Indeed, support from the Armed Forces was crucial in eventually propelling him to the presidency, not least after choosing retired General Hamilton Mourão as his running mate. Since taking office, however, the government and the military have been at each other’s throats, in a dispute which gained further proportions after new social media scandals this weekend, burying once and for all Jair Bolsonaro’s image as a “military man.”

As a general rule, any behind-the-scenes quarrels in the Jair Bolsonaro government will eventually — one way or another — end up on social media. The spat with the military is no exception. On Saturday, Mr. Bolsonaro’s official YouTube channel posted a video depicting Olavo de Carvalho, the president’s ideological savant, shooting rifles, and discussing the Bolsonaro presidency.

</p> <p>In the video, Mr. Carvalho rails against the &#8220;intrigue, egotism, and vanity&#8221; surrounding the government. &#8220;I think [Jair] Bolsonaro is a martyr, just for putting up with these sons of bitches he has around him,&#8221; he snarled.</p> <h2>Olavo de Carvalho opens fire on social media</h2> <p>While some of the criticism is leveled at members of Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s congressional support base — who Olavo de Carvalho judges as having &#8220;abandoned the people&#8221; and seeking power for themselves — the main target of the <a href=";mc_eid=3fe7a799a2">video</a> is the top brass of the Armed Forces, particularly those within the government.</p> <p>On one of his famous voyages into political analysis — which in the past have included stating Prince Charles is an Islamic spy, and that Pepsi cola contains cells of aborted fetuses — he declares that the Brazilian military &#8220;handed the country over to the Communists&#8221; after taking power in the coup of 1964.</p> <p>&#8220;The military needs to confess its own mistakes before trying to fix the mistakes of others,&#8221; he said, a direct dig at what he sees as the meddling of the Armed Forces in the Jair Bolsonaro government.</p> <p>The video was seen over 100,000 times before being deleted on Sunday afternoon, a move which raised more suspicions about who exactly decides what is posted on the president&#8217;s official social media channels.</p> <p>While this is the first public shot fired by the president&#8217;s office against the military, the spat between Olavo de Carvalho and the army top brass is nothing new. Earlier this year, after vice-president Hamilton Mourão joked about not having read Mr. Carvalho&#8217;s books on philosophy, the latter snapped that Mr. Mourão was an &#8220;embarrassment to the Armed Forces,&#8221; calling him a &#8220;despicable charlatan&#8221; and warning he should honor his Army uniform before it &#8220;vomits him back out.&#8221;</p> <p>In response to this weekend&#8217;s video, Mr. Mourão simply replied that Olavo de Carvalho &#8220;should stick to astrology,&#8221; in reference to one of the philosopher&#8217;s previous professions.</p> <p>Previously, this quarrel was being played out as <a href="">a proxy war</a> within the Ministry of Education, causing absolute shambles within one of the most important government departments, and leading to <a href="">the firing of cabinet minister Ricardo Vélez-Rodríguez</a>. Now, the fight is out in the open.</p> <h2>President v. Vice President</h2> <p>The video incident also removes any ambiguity about the apparent mistrust between Jair Bolsonaro and his vice president. Since taking office, the president has apparently frozen out Mr. Mourão, not giving him any responsibilities and excluding him from important government discussions.</p> <p>As a result, Hamilton Mourão has set about doing his own thing, holding constant meetings with diplomats, business executives, and union leaders — and even gesturing favorably toward the press. Whenever he has the opportunity, he has publicly contradicted Jair Bolsonaro, attempting to portray himself as the &#8220;voice of reason&#8221; within a disorganized administration.</p> <p>Publishing a video so critical of the Armed Forces is a clear indication of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s dissatisfaction with his vice-president. As if this was not enough, on Sunday, newspaper <em>O Globo</em> reported that the president has encouraged his political leaders to publicly criticize Hamilton Mourão. The paper also states it had access to a WhatsApp audio message in which Jair Bolsonaro claims Mr. Mourão will receive a &#8220;little surprise in 2022&#8221; — a nod toward the next presidential election.</p> <p>If anything, the first four months of the government have proven the assumption of Jair Bolsonaro as a &#8220;faithful military man&#8221; was rushed and inaccurate. While the president is clearly an admirer of the Armed Forces&#8217; traditions and folklore, he has shown that <a href="">his way of thinking is quite different</a>, which meant he was never cut out for a military career in the past, and was never going to gain their full support as president.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p><em>This article was updated on April 22, 2019, at 4:36 pm, to include Hamilton Mourão&#8217;s response to Olavo de Carvalho&#8217;s comments.</em>

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