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Bolsonaro has threatened military intervention several times, say sources

. Aug 17, 2020
President Bolsonaro coup Putschist talks to "blow off steam." Photo: Marcos Corrêa/P

In a meeting with at least six close advisors on May 22, President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to launch a self-coup by closing Brazil’s Supreme Court and replacing all 11 of its justices. “I’m going to intervene!” he repeated, several times, as was reported by monthly magazine Piauí. In conversations with sources close to the president, The Brazilian Report was able to confirm the veracity of this information. However, this was not the only time Mr. Bolsonaro threatened a coup.

The Brazilian Report spoke with two participants of the May 22 meeting, four sources who were told about the content of the private conversation, and two individuals from Mr. Bolsonaro’s inner circle. All eight sources requested to remain anonymous.

</p> <p>People close to the president confirmed that the president did in fact threaten a self-coup in the May 22 meeting, and added that they have &#8220;chatted&#8221; to Mr. Bolsonaro in the past about &#8220;the possibility of an intervention&#8221; and &#8220;sending troops to close&#8221; the Supreme Court or Congress. &#8220;In private, when he&#8217;s letting off steam, he&#8217;s already mentioned it. But certainly not seriously,&#8221; says one member of the president&#8217;s inner circle. &#8220;In moments of anger, when the Supreme Court interferes with the executive, it is clear that his desire is to shut down the court,&#8221; adds another source. Both frequent the Planalto Palace on a regular basis.</p> <p>Another source told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that the Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo gathered the heads of Brazil&#8217;s three Armed Forces to discuss the May 22 meeting with the president. The individual says that Mr. Azevedo did not make any requests to the commanders, instead he merely informed them of what President Bolsonaro had said. &#8220;Because it is known that the heads of the Armed Forces are absolutely against any form of coup,&#8221; the source adds.&nbsp;</p> <h2>May 22: another historic day in the Bolsonaro administration</h2> <p>&#8220;I&#8217;m going to intervene!&#8221; said President Bolsonaro, after hearing that Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello had inquired about the possibility of seizing Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s cell phone and that of his son Carlos Bolsonaro. Justice Mello is the rapporteur of the investigation into accusations made by former Justice Minister Sergio Moro upon <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/05/22/video-exposes-gross-mismanagement-in-bolsonaro-government/">leaving the cabinet</a>, claiming Mr. Bolsonaro had <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/04/24/could-sergio-moro-bring-down-second-president/">illegally meddled</a> in the Federal Police for his own benefit.</p> <p>According to the Piauí article, the president entered the meeting in a livid state and planned to oust all 11 justices of the Supreme Court, replacing them with figures of his choosing &#8220;until everything is in order.&#8221;</p> <p>None of those present were particularly surprised by Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s outburst. According to claims made by those in attendance, cabinet members from the government&#8217;s military wing supported the president, but pondered whether &#8220;now was the right time.&#8221;&nbsp;</p> <p>They then discussed how to react. &#8220;The president said that what was happening [in the Supreme Court] was very serious,&#8221; says one of the meeting participants, speaking to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>. President Bolsonaro has often criticized the &#8220;exaggerated decisions&#8221; of Supreme Court justices.</p> <p>The result was the so-called &#8220;statement to the nation,&#8221; written and signed by General Augusto Heleno, the head of Institutional Security in the Bolsonaro government. In the statement, Gen. Heleno underlines that the potential seizure of the president&#8217;s phone would be &#8220;an evident attempt to compromise the harmony between the branches of power and may have <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/06/02/brazil-far-right-has-created-a-legal-way-to-stage-a-coup-bolsonaro/">unpredictable consequences for national stability</a>.&#8221;</p> <p>In the meeting, President Bolsonaro affirmed that he would not hand over his phone, even with a court order, which he later repeated in public. As he is the president, disobeying a court order would constitute grounds for impeachment, according to the Constitution.&nbsp;</p> <h2>President sparks tension in Brasilia</h2> <p>Two months ago, when Fabricio Queiroz — a long-time friend of President Bolsonaro and former aide to his son Flávio — was <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2020/06/18/arrest-fabricio-queiroz-pressure-president-jair-bolsonaro/">arrested</a>, Mr. Bolsonaro began maintaining his distance from quarrels between branches of government. After keeping his mouth closed, public tensions in Brasilia have decreased.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, since taking office, his relationship with Congress and the Judiciary has been poor, with many of his outrageous declarations being met with angrily worded responses from other branches of power in Brasilia.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;There are some things he says, that these days we just ignore, because we&#8217;ve learned that this is part of who he is. But some things we cannot stand by without responding, because they are attacks against democracy and we cannot allow that,&#8221; says one Supreme Court justice, speaking to <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

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