Brazilian military commanders say Bolsonaro has presented a plan to cancel the 2022 elections

SAO PAULO (AP) — Two top Brazilian military commanders announced to police that former President Jair Bolsonaro introduced them to… He planned to stay in power after that He lost the 2022 elections, but they refused and warned him that they would arrest him if he tried, according to judicial documents issued Friday.

Testimonies of Bolsonaro's former army and air force commanders to police, published by the Supreme Court, include the first direct references to the right-wing leader as an active participant in a plot to ignore the results of the October 2022 elections won by his rival. Current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Statements of military leaders during the Bolsonaro era In addition to his legal problems as prosecutors Seeking to find links between the far-right leader and Riots of January 8, 2023 Which destroyed government buildings in the capital, Brasilia, a week after Lula's inauguration.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, a frequent target of Bolsonaro and head of the investigation, authorized the release of the documents.

A federal police report said former army chief Marco Antonio Freire Gomez testified that he and other senior military leaders attended several unscheduled, last-minute meetings at the presidential palace after the second round of elections “in which then-President Jair Bolsonaro offered possibilities of using legal tools… regarding in the electoral process.”

At one gathering, Bolsonaro told his three army commanders and his then-Defense Minister Paulo Sergio Nogueira that he wanted to create a commission “to investigate the confirmation and legitimacy of the electoral process,” Federal Police General Freire Gomes told federal police. He added that other tools could be used, such as issuing a decree declaring a state of siege.

Freire Gomez said he rejected the idea from the beginning and told Bolsonaro that such a move “could end in the legal liability of the then president,” according to the federal police document.

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The Brazilian police general also declared that he “always made it clear to the then president that, under the circumstances prevailing at that time, there was no possibility of reversing the election result from a military point of view.”

Former Air Force Commander Brig. Carlos de Almeida Baptista Jr. also told federal police that he rejected Bolsonaro's electoral moves. He added that he believed General Freire Gomez's rebuke was key to preventing Bolsonaro from seeking to reverse the election result.

The federal police document quoted Baptista Junior as saying: “If the commander (Freire Gomes) accepts the possibility of a coup attempt.”

“The general. Freire Gomez said that if such a move was attempted he would have to arrest the president, as stated in the police document.

Baptista Junior also told federal police that Fleet Admiral Almir Garnier, the former commander of the Brazilian Navy, “said he would place his forces at the disposal of Jair Bolsonaro,” according to the document.

Bolsonaro denied that he and his supporters attempted a coup When rioters attacked government buildings a year ago.

“What is a coup? It is tanks in the streets, weapons and a conspiracy. None of that happened in Brazil.” During a demonstration last month.

Bolsonaro's lawyer, Fabio Wajngarten, previously said on Twitter that he had never heard of any plot to keep the former president in office or threats from military leaders to put him in prison if he tried.

“They are friends of whoever is in power,” Wagengarten said, without naming the former leaders. Their insignificance is their biggest and best trait. Sycophants. Dazzled by microphones, waiters and drivers. Average.”

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Bolsonaro began raising unfounded questions about Brazil's electronic voting process years before the vote, and those efforts to sow doubt accelerated in the run-up to the election that returned Lula to the post he held between 2003 and 2010.

Glycy Hoffman, head of Lula's Workers' Party, said that what the military leaders revealed proved that “the president's victory was essential to preserving democracy” in Brazil.

“We are on the right side of history,” Hoffman said on her social media channels.

Some of Bolsonaro's allies in Congress spoke of a bill to pardon those involved in the January 8 riots. A few of them belong to his Liberal Party, whose president Waldemar Costa Neto also spoke to the federal police. Neto claimed, according to the documents, that he questioned the election results only because he was under pressure from the former president.

Senior military figures giving lengthy testimonies to the federal police is a bad omen for Bolsonaro.

“It's one of the first big signs that Bolsonaro is going to stand alone and lose a lot of the military support he had,” said Sergio Brasa, a political scientist from the Rio de Janeiro-based Getulio Vargas Foundation, a think tank and university.

Manuel Galdino, a political science professor at the University of São Paulo, said the testimonies are unlikely to have a significant impact on public opinion.

Bolsonaro Loyalists will not be affected by the new evidence, While many others are already convinced that the former president is involved in planning a coup.

“There has been no new discovery so significant as to change Bolsonaro’s status or the role he will play in the municipal elections in October, for example,” Galdino said.

Bolsonaro is banned from running for president until 2030 due to two convictions for abuse of power, but he remains active in Brazilian politics as the main opponent of the centre-left Lula. As this year's municipal elections approached, the candidates were divided between the two leaders.

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According to the Brazilian Penal Code, an attempted coup is punishable by a minimum of four years in prison and a maximum of 12 years. Some of Bolsonaro's defenders say he never tried to do so, and claim there are no documents signed by him containing orders that would ultimately lead to keeping him in office.

Cesar Zilioto, a constitutional law lawyer, said the testimonies of the two former military commanders are the most important pieces that have yet to determine Bolsonaro's role before the riots. It is believed their statements will be part of potential charges against the former president that will be delivered to the Supreme Court within months.

“These are two individuals who were at a high level and suggest that he had the intent, potential leadership, a role in coordination, and clear involvement in questioning the election results,” Zilioto said. But now there is some confirmation of a conspiracy.”

Zilioto added that although Bolsonaro never issued a decree to deploy tanks on the streets, he still faces serious legal risk because of all the other evidence against him.

“If he had signed a decree, that would have been the greatest possible evidence of Bolsonaro’s connection to him. But it's about much more than just signing a draft pick or not. “There is planning, preparatory work and a lot of evidence to look at,” the lawyer said.

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