Brazil is currently in a state of political unease. Two years after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached for corruption, the Brazilian political scene is full of incompetence, corruption, and instability. President Michel Temer, Rousseff’s vice president who assumed the presidency after her removal, has been extremely unpopular. As a remnant of the former political administration, he was found complicit in corruption and banned from running in the upcoming presidential elections this October. Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was recently arrested as part of the national anti-corruption investigation, Operation Lavo Jato, translated to “car wash.”
In the face of all this uncertainty and corruption, many in Brazil are calling for a clean slate. The upcoming elections in October have seen many new figures entering the race. A surprising number of former military officers and others connected to the Brazilian military are also throwing their hats into the ring. Federal Deputy Jair Bolsonaro has risen to be a front runner for the upcoming presidential election. The candidate was an army captain and has stated that he would appoint military generals to head the federal ministries in his cabinet. The far-right Bolsonaro is often compared to U.S. President Donald Trump because of his political views and inflammatory rhetoric. He also has an increasingly large following that has only grown larger after former president da Silva was removed from polls.
Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters are younger and did not live through Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. Bolsonaro has even commended the military dictatorship as a positive occurrence in the nation’s history because it “stopped Brazil from falling under the sway of the Soviet Union.” Brazil’s military dictatorship was characterized by torture of dissidents, and was responsible for at least 434 confirmed killings and disappearances. Although a truth commission was established under Rousseff’s presidency, the country has done much less to reconcile with its dictatorial period than other Latin American countries.
Many military officers that have possibly committed crimes in the past are currently being protected by a law granting amnesty to those in power, and that is preventing justice and true reconciliation from occurring. According to Pedro Dallari of Brazil’s truth commission, the lack of justice has made younger Brazilians romanticize military rule as a time of stability. Additionally, the Armed Forces were seen positively by about 80 percent of Brazilians, compared to many officials who currently have popularity ratings less than 20 percent.
While Brazil needs a clean slate to regain political confidence, turning to the military is not the right answer. Although Brazilian military officers claim to be protectors of democracy, the nation’s history has countless examples where that turned out not to be the case. Furthermore, countless military coups around the world prove that democracy tends not to be the outcome when the military enters the political realm. Brazil should turn to its citizenry to uplift new competent voices and address the issues of Brazilians of all walks of life.