Many Brazilians look to military takeover

Peter Prengaman and Marcelo Silva De Sousa
Associated Press

Rio De Janeiro – Furious at corrupt politicians and fearful of deteriorating security, many Brazilians are calling for a military intervention to clean house of crooked leaders and crack down on heavily armed drug gangs.

While chances of a military takeover in Latin America’s largest nation are small, the calls have become such a part of the national discussion that several generals have felt compelled to deny any interest in such a move – though that hasn’t kept them from sounding off on politics in a way that raises questions.

Such discussions would have been unthinkable even a few years ago in a country that emerged from a 21-year dictatorship in 1985, and most supporters tend to avoid the words “coup” or “dictatorship.” But the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history and an economic downturn have underscored an emerging narrative that only the armed forces can save Brazil.

“Close down Congress, arrest everybody involved (in corruption) and shut the Supreme Court,” said Toni Imbrosio Oliveira, a 61-year-old physical education teacher in Rio. “Why? Because there is collusion between all three branches of power.”

Like other supporters, Oliveira said the military should only be in power long enough to write a new constitution, try corrupt politicians and hold general elections.

Until recently, calls for a return of military rule only came from small groups on the fringes. Today that view has moved much closer to the mainstream. Polls, myriad social media groups and last month’s national truckers’ strike, in which “Military Intervention Now!” signs were ubiquitous, show growing support.

“I support a military intervention to create a dignified democracy in Brazil,” said Donizeti Dias Pereira, director of Tranziran, a trucking company in Rio de Janeiro. “That is not what we have today.”

Brazilians are understandably angry. Beginning in 2014, the so-called Carwash investigation has uncovered a colossal corruption scheme that raised eyebrows in a country long inured to graft in politics.

Compared to other military governments in South America, such as in Argentina and Chile, Brazil’s version was less repressive. Still, at least 434 people were killed or disappeared during the dictatorship, according to a truth commission report in 2014. Thousands more were tortured, and the press was heavily censured.

“People who want intervention have no idea what a military government is,” said Ana Miranda, who said she was tortured in the late 1960s and jailed four years for participating in anti-government demonstrations.

Miranda, a retired pharmacist who lives in Rio de Janeiro, said she was kicked so many times that she got kidney infections.