Bolsonaro’s new ally: “we must have a military coup”

. May 11, 2020
Bolsonaro's new ally: "we must have a military coup" Former Congressman Roberto Jefferson. Photo: PTB Brasil

Few men embody the depths and ambiguities of Brazilian politics better than former Congressman Roberto Jefferson. He entered public life in 1971 and has lived through a military dictatorship, a new constitution, seven democratically-elected presidents (or vice presidents), and two impeachments. Mr. Jefferson himself has faced many scandals, almost bringing down a popular administration and spending time in jail for corruption. Still, he continues to be one of the kingpins of Brazil’s “lower clergy” of politicians, the vast swathes of back-benchers who rarely manage to get close to power but fight for scraps handed down by presidents in exchange for support.

Mr. Jefferson, who controls the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), represents the antithesis of the famous anarchist boast “si hay gobierno, soy contra.” For Mr. Jefferson, if there is a government, he is in favor of it. With ease, Mr. Jefferson went from being the leader of former President Fernando Collor’s anti-impeachment troops in 1992 to becoming an ally of the center-left, once Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reached the presidency ten years later. He later exposed a votes-for-cash scheme within the Workers’ Party which sent many top dogs in Brasília — himself included — to jail.

Now, Mr. Jefferson’s new best friend is President Jair Bolsonaro. And, with the fervor of a recent convert, the party leader is talking photos with machine guns and openly calling for a military coup. He spoke to The Brazilian Report this week in an exclusive interview:

</p> <p><em>(The following interview was edited for clarity and length.)</em></p> <p><strong>How do you rate President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s handling of the pandemic?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>President Bolsonaro is trying to save lives. He picked a serious man for the Health Ministry, [oncologist] Nelson Teich. He is not a politician. Mr. Bolsonaro is also addressing both the sanitary and the economic issues, to save jobs and lives. People are becoming desperate with their fridges being empty.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p><strong>But many business owners complain that the government&#8217;s plans to increase credit and keep the companies afloat is not working. They haven&#8217;t got access to the money.</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Bureaucracy is getting in the way. But business owners are complaining more about the insecurity that lockdown measures will create. The government&#8217;s plan will help companies for 90 days — but the crisis will last longer.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Many political brokers say Health Minister Nelson Teich seems &#8220;lost&#8221; and has yet to show why he was appointed.</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>[His <a href="">predecessor</a>, Luiz Henrique] Mandetta was all about politics. Whenever someone called him out, he&#8217;d open the floodgates and pour money into states and municipalities. Mr. Teich is a technocrat who wants to control funds in a balanced way. But governors are benefiting from the state of calamity as it lifts controls on public bidding processes. We will see a lot of money being siphoned to finance political campaigns in the <a href="">2020 municipal elections</a>. If we have problems with the checks-and-balances systems when they are working, imagine what happens when they&#8217;re switched off. Governors and mayors are using the pandemic to create a pandemonium of corruption.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>But can the federal administration adopt this holier-than-thou stance, given that President Bolsonaro has offered government positions to parties facing multiple corruption allegations in exchange for their support?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Mr. Bolsonaro is being very clear and transparent. He won&#8217;t steal, not will he let anyone else steal. He will use the National Intelligence Agency and the Federal Police to track these parties&#8217; every move. I have absolute conviction in that, as I was —&nbsp;for more than a year —&nbsp;Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s whip when he was a member of my party.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>Why did he leave?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>Because we joined the Workers&#8217; Party&#8217;s government. And he was adamantly against it.</p></blockquote> <p><strong>You recently published a photo holding a machine gun, along with a nationalist declaration. How genuine was that, considering that you used to support the left in government?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>I agree with Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s beliefs. He embodies, as a leader, all of my convictions. The president is fighting to defend Brazil from the sodomite invasion promoted by soap-operas broadcasted on [Brazil&#8217;s leading broadcaster] <em>TV Globo</em>. He is not against homosexuality, but there is no need to suggest that they make up the majority of the population. A Christian family, according to the Bible, is made up of a man and a woman. We must respect God&#8217;s will.</p></blockquote> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="768" height="1024" src="" alt="jefferson bolsonaro" class="wp-image-38844" srcset=" 768w, 225w, 610w, 960w" sizes="(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px" /><figcaption>Calls for a coup: &#8220;Preparing to fight the good fight.&#8221; Photo: Twitter/@blogdojefferson</figcaption></figure> <p><strong>In line with members of the government, you have recently criticized China and said the Covid-19 pandemic was a plot to ensure Chinese world dominance. Isn&#8217;t this a dangerous message, considering how dependent Brazilian agriculture is on Chinese buyers?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p><em>Au contraire</em>. What you are saying is repeating an inferiority complex, its mumbo-jumbo. It is China which depends on Brazilian agriculture — not the other way around. China is a starving giant. It is big, but it doesn&#8217;t have enough food for itself. China can&#8217;t break with Brazil because there wouldn&#8217;t be anywhere else for them to buy their food. They&#8217;d starve to death.</p></blockquote> <p><em>[Editor&#8217;s note: while Brazilian products are highly competitive on a global scale, given the Brazilian currency&#8217;s devaluation, the country&#8217;s agricultural products have multiple competitors&nbsp;—&nbsp;from the U.S. to neighbors Argentina.]</em></p> <p><strong>President Bolsonaro&#8217;s constant bickering with Congress and the Supreme Court have raised talks of a potential impeachment. How likely is that to happen?</strong></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>An impeachment is hard to do. The moment people found out about impeachment talks, they reacted. Which has led the establishment to work its way into the Supreme Court. The opposition against Mr. Bolsonaro comes from the Supreme Court. One of its justices, Alexandre de Moraes, used to work as a lawyer for the First Command of the Capital [PCC, Brazil&#8217;s biggest organized crime gang]. The president has inherited a Supreme Court stacked with Workers&#8217; Party and Social Democracy Party appointees, and the court has tied his hands.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p><em>[Editor&#8217;s note: in recent weeks, Supreme Court justices have issued numerous decisions against the president&#8217;s interests, such as authorizing an investigation against him and blocking the appointment of one of his family friends as Federal Police Chief. About Justice Moraes&#8217; links with the PCC: that connection has been raised by members of the left and the far-right, though nothing has been proven.]</em></p> <blockquote class="wp-block-quote"><p>The president must enact a forceful measure against the Supreme Court or he will be struck down by the justices. Mr. Bolsonaro must act with strength. Against the coup from the judiciary, we must have a military coup. He must impeach every single one of the 11 justices or they will tear his administration down. He should also revoke all the radio and television licenses given to <em>Globo</em>.&nbsp;

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Brenno Grillo

Brenno has worked as a journalist since 2012, specializing in coverage related to law and the justice system. He has worked for O Estado de S. Paulo, Portal Brasil, ConJur, and has experience in political campaigns.

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