Bolsonaro is an active subject in the sanitary disaster we are experiencing. It advertised ineffective medicines, spread lies, attacked social isolation measures and, in the midst of untruths, manipulated the decisions of the Federal Supreme Court that guaranteed mayors and governors the adoption of such measures. But Bolsonaro didn’t do it alone. Alongside him marched the generals and colonels, aware of their own role and echoing the obscurantism that in the government makes no distinction between fardados and paisanos.
A few days after its closing, Covid’s CPI imposes an accelerated pace to its work to publish its final report. Since April 2020, the collegiate has been advancing its investigations, and accumulated overwhelming evidence of the disastrous conduct of the pandemic by the federal government, whose apex is expressed in reports of eugenics involving the incentive of “early treatment” and its application in the Prevent Senior hospital network , in practices so base that they justify comparisons with Nazism.
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Entrepreneurs, doctors, employees of the Ministry of Health and Economy, in short, deniers and opportunists of all kinds, were exposed by the work of the collegiate. However, it seems that the senators have forgotten about the military.
The militarization of the Ministry of Health has shed light on the participation of members of the armed forces in managing the pandemic. The involvement of colonels in obscure vaccine negotiation schemes and in the Army’s production and distribution of chloroquine, including to indigenous territories, make this involvement even more evident. The separation between the institution and members of the government fell apart in episodes such as the threat note signed by the current Minister of Defense, Walter Braga Netto, and the commanders of the singular forces in response to the statement by the chairman of the commission, senator Omar Aziz (PSD- AM).
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Indeed, the case of Braga Netto is emblematic. As minister of the Civil House, the military assumed the coordination of the Crisis Committee for Supervision and Monitoring of the Impacts of Covid-19, created in March 2020 by Jair Bolsonaro, being directly responsible for a series of measures adopted by the government in the context of the crisis sanitary.
Documents held by the CPI analyzed in a report by Intercept Brasil reinforce this statement. In them, the four-star general is appointed as a key player in the oxygen crisis in Manaus, in negotiations to import chloroquine, among others. He was also responsible for the negotiations for the Brazilian adhesion to the Covax Facility consortium – a statement made by Eduardo Pazuello himself, in testimony to the commission. Brazil, it is important to mention, did not request all the vaccines to which it would have the right to the consortium.
In this context, the general’s summons would be more than justified. It would also be an indication that the CPI would be willing to hold the military responsible who, eventually, had their involvement proven in the schemes, actions and inactions investigated by the commission. And that is exactly why its non-occurrence draws attention.
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On social networks, the fact did not go unscathed. In this, which was an instrument par excellence for participation and social pressure with the CPI, there were several questions from internet users about the disappearance of the military from the senators’ radar. To cite just one example, it is worth mentioning the effort made by the psychologist and data analyst, as well as member of the Covid-19 Analysis Network, Ananias Oliveira. On his Twitter account, Oliveira has been carrying out an interesting work of collecting and systematizing data about the military in managing the pandemic, pointing out their articulations in the government. Emphasizing the cases that involve them in the scope of Covid’s CPI, one wonders why Braga Netto was not called.
The commission’s rapporteur, senator Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), had already shown interest in the general’s summons. Thus, the thesis of the split in the majority group of the CPI would be confirmed. It remains, in any case, to know the reason for the resistance among parliamentarians. The answer remains in the field of speculation. Apparently, a fear prevails among some senators that the minister’s subpoena will be perceived as an affront to the armed forces. In confirming this hypothesis, it is necessary to accept that we no longer have democracy. If the senators of the Republic cower before armed agents of the State, it is because they do not fulfill their function and the mandate given to them by the people persists merely as a formal rite.
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Be that as it may, the senators’ silence is indicative of the growing leniency with the military, notably the high officials, involved in the public health crisis and in the social chaos that has been established in Brazil today. The generals remain unharmed. Even Pazuello, apparent piranha bull, remains in government in a position with the Presidency. The question that arises, however, goes beyond the limits of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission. If it is worrying enough that senators of the Republic reject the summoning of a general-minister, for fear of a possible reaction by the armed forces, it is even more alarming that this seems to be the behavior of other actors in the Brazilian political system in the face of political interference by members of the armed forces. Such behavior, ultimately, sounds like an endorsement of the processes of politicization of the armed forces and, even more serious, of the militarization of society and politics.
As we went back to the hunger map, 12 years were wasted on picanha and whiskey. In their articulations, they guarantee for themselves robust slices of the public budget and privileges that range from a special pension to exorbitant salaries ahead of state-owned companies. The burden of their crimes and actions – past and present – they know little about. Impunity is the rule, as shown in the paradox that is the Military Justice or in the silence regarding the responsibility of Admiral Bento Albuquerque, Minister of Mines and Energy, for the energy crisis we are facing. They gloated, lied and threatened the CPI, while participating in coup demonstrations alongside the President of the Republic.
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In this scenario, the condescension of the political system with raptures sparks an alert to the countryside and the popular. There is no Republic, nor democracy, while we live under constant threat from an armed institution that claims to be the owner of the Nation, acting as a moderating power. It is essential to accuse and resist the crimes and authoritarianism of Bolsonaro and his staunchest supporters. But it is irresponsible to ignore the same crimes and the same authoritarianism when committed by agents in uniform.
The construction of a democratic and popular country project necessarily involves the consolidation of civil authority over the military and its distance from party political activity. May we have the courage that our political representatives do not show today to build this future.
*Jorge M. Oliveira Rodrigues is a researcher at the Defense and International Security Study Group (GEDES) and at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research.
** This is an opinion piece. The author’s vision does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil in fact.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo