National Divide and The

Brewing of a Military Coup in Brazil

By Apostolos Kaniouras International | November 30, 2022

Cover Illustration: Politician Making a Speech-Brazilian Flag. Serhej Calka / Pexels

International Reporter Apostolos Kaniouras draws attention to the recent Brazilian general election. Noting the political divide amongst citizens, Kaniouras discusses how the controversial election result is reminiscent of Trump’s loss in the 2020 US elections, with talks of a military coup. 

On October 30, 2022, the global spotlight turned to Brazil, where the people elected Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as their new president in a nail-biting victory. Lula accumulated 50.9% of the votes, replacing former President Jair Bolsonaro, who won 49.1% in the second round of the elections.

Lula represents “Partido dos Trabalhadores”, otherwise known as the “Workers’ Party”, which is a left-wing political party that bases its ideologies on socialist democracy. Lula served as the 35th president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During his presidency, he was the object of popular affection as Brazil became the world’s eighth largest economy, with more than 20 million people rising out of poverty. His image was besmirched in 2014 when operation “Car Wash” was initiated with the intent to uncover political corruption. This operation exposed an unprecedented web of corruption throughout Brazilian public institutions, amounting to more than five billion dollars in payments to political parties. During the operation, nine suits were put forward against Lula, leading to his arrest on April 7, 2018. 

These events played a major role in this year’s elections as the opposing candidates claimed that Lula was corrupt and unfit to be president, while his supporters claimed that his sentencing was unjust and reminded that he had been annulled of all convictions. 

Jair Bolsonaro is a conservative, nationalist, military man that was elected in 2018 while representing the right-wing “Liberal Party”. Bolsonaro has been a controversial figure since his election, with many of his critics comparing him to the former American president, Donald Trump. This comparison does not only stem from their similar policies that oppose gun restrictions, ignore environmental crises and weaken LGBTQ+ and reproductive freedoms, but also from their tactic of spreading misinformation amongst their followers to create narratives furthering their ambitions.

For the last two weeks, half of the country has been in the streets celebrating what they believe to be the return of a true leader that will not prioritize the lives of the privileged few, but instead improve the living standards of lower-earning classes. On the other hand, Bolsonaros supporters are scared, angry and confused about what they deem to be the return of a thief and a criminal in the most powerful position in the country. Bolsonaro supporters have been seen demanding the national armed forces take action against what they think is a stolen election. 

This resistance comes as no surprise–on Tuesday, November 2, Bolsonaro gave a small speech to his supporters in which he disputed his defeat and did not congratulate Lula on his victory, claiming that his supporters’ protests arose from “indignation and a sense of injustice” over the results. However, his chief of staff did make public that the transition to a new government has been authorized. 

Although this speech has convinced some officials that Bolsonaro will not attempt to further his allegations of a fraudulent election by trying to seize power militarily, others are not so certain. Political risk analyst Andre Cesar stated, “Bolsonaro has not put out this fire. He spoke to his hardcore supporters without criticizing the demonstrators on the highways… He is keeping his more extremist followers mobilized.” Furthermore, some Bolsonaro supporters stated that his comments “gave me more energy to come [to the protests]”, while others saw his comments as resignation from the battle against corruption, so they intend to turn to the armed forces instead.

Although more and more people have become convinced that Bolsonaro will not take any action against Lula, the future of Brazil is still uncertain as public divides remain at an all-time high. In an interview with The Amsterdammer, a Brazilian student at Vrije University stated that her friends who live in Brazil tell her that Bolsonaro supporters are very angry and that the situation resembles what happened in America when Trump lost. She continued stating “what is very important to think about when talking about Brazilian politics is that you never know who to really trust because there is so much corruption in the state institutions. For me, neither Bolsonaro nor Lula should be president.” 

When asked about what the future could hold for Brazil and the possibility of a military coup, she stated “if he could do that, he would have already done it; but for the future of Brazil I don’t know. My opinion, as sad as it is, is that although some parts will be better, like the environmental policies, due to the widespread corruption things will never truly change.” 

“For the last two weeks, half of the country has been in the streets celebrating what they believe to be the return of a true leader that will not prioritize the lives of the privileged few, but instead improve the living standards of lower-earning classes.”

Apostolos Kaniouras is an university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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