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Lula administration overthrows General Julio Cesar de Arruda, head of the Brazilian army after the uprising

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RIO DE JANEIRO — President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ousted Brazil’s army chief on Saturday, acting against the highest-ranking military officer to be held accountable after the Jan. 8 uprising, when right-wing rioters are unleashed in the halls of power of this country.

The order to fire General Júlio Cesar de Arruda was given by Lula’s defense minister, José Múcio, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.

Arruda’s withdrawal came six days after the Washington Post reported that he had sought to shield rioters and supporters of defeated former President Jair Bolsonaro sheltering in a camp outside Israel’s headquarters. army after having stormed and ransacked the presidential palace, the supreme court and congress.

When addressing Arruda’s dismissal on Saturday night, Múcio suggested that Arruda’s conduct on the night of January 8 was one of the reasons for Arruda’s dismissal.

“After these last episodes, the issue of the camps, the issue of January 8, relations with the army command suffered a fracture in trust. And we had to stop this from the start,” Múcio told reporters at Brasília as he stood next to Arruda’s replacement, General Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva.

Even after the night of the riots, however, Lula had sought to avoid direct conflict with Arruda, said a senior judicial source who also spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.

The official said Lula acted after Arruda refused his order to fire a former senior aide to Bolsonaro, Colonel Mauro Cid, who also commanded an army battalion in the city of Goiânia.

The decision could now further heighten tensions between Lula and the military, which, along with Brazil’s police force, is widely seen as harboring strong sympathies for Bolsonaro – a right-wing ideologue and former army captain who has stacked the his cabinet ranks and key civilian positions with former members of the armed forces.

The freedom to lie? The Brazilian right denounces the “witch hunt” of disinformation

Lula’s administration has already fired or forced into retirement at least 40 other rank-and-file soldiers who were involved in security at the presidential palace on the day of the attacks by the Bolsonarists – as Bolsonaro supporters are called.

Judicial authorities are currently investigating alleged breaches of duty and possible collusion with rioters by the military and security forces. Evidence probed includes the actions of military officials on the night of the riots, a change in the security plan before insurgents gathered outside federal buildings on Jan. 8, inaction and police fraternization as rioters began to enter the buildings, and the presence of a senior military police officer who had told his superiors that he was on vacation.

“The January 8 riots revealed Lula’s vulnerability to the military,” said Guilherme Casarões, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo. “They have been complicit in the pro-Bolsonaro movements which have multiplied since the publication of the election results. They have also been key players in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories against the government they should serve.

The January 8 attack in Brazil echoed January 6, 2021, insurrection on the United States Capitol. Much like in the United States, the rioters in Brazil were motivated by false allegations of voter fraud. Like Trump – a close ally and political star of the 67-year-old former leader defeated on October 30 – Bolsonaro has also refused to concede defeat.

But the potential complicity of the military, or at least their sympathy for the rioters, made the dynamic more dangerous for Lula. Many of the rioters are believed to have been residents of a protest camp that sprung up at army headquarters in Brasilia on the night of the Oct. 30 election, when Bolsonarians falsely claimed that the defeated president was robbed.

On the night of the riots, according to Lula administration officials, the president’s chief of staff, his justice and defense ministers and other senior officials arrived at the space-style army headquarters to negotiate. the detention of insurgents and others in the protest camp.

“‘You’re not going to arrest people here,'” Arruda told Lula’s justice minister around 10:20 p.m., The Washington Post reported is Jan 14.

After initially refusing, military commanders agreed to allow security officials under Lula’s control to carry out raids – but not until 6 a.m. the next day. Administration officials say they believe that gave the military time to warn hundreds of relatives and friends to leave.

Brazil’s military blocked arrests of Bolsonaro rioters, officials say

Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on January 13 to open an investigation into Bolsonaro as part of its investigation into the “instigators and intellectual authors” behind the January 8 attacks. Bolsonaro, who is currently locked up in Florida, has spent much of his four-year term trying to undermine faith in Brazil’s reliable electoral system, attempts that have intensified as polls showed him trailing behind Lula. Bolsonaro denied any connection with the rioters and condemned the political violence.

Arruda will be replaced by General Paiva, the military commander of the southeast. In a speech this week, Paiva called on Brazilians to respect the October election result and said the military is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan institution.

Lula had publicly expressed his distrust of the army after Jan. 8, but aides had said he would not fire the commander until investigations were completed to avoid escalating tensions between the executive and the military. armed forces.

On Friday, Lula met with Arruda and commanders of the navy, Marcos Sampaio Olsen, and the air force, Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno. The meeting was aimed at reducing tensions at the start of his government.

Lula, observers say, will now have to balance his supporters’ expectations for justice with the need to ensure he does not further alienate his senior brass.

“Lula’s supporters expect the president to embark on a witch hunt against Bolsonarists in the military, [but] anything that could further fuel animosity between the generals and the administration will have dramatic political consequences for a president whose primary task is to bring the country together,” Casarões said.

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