BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Friday that if he were to order the military to take the streets and restore order, “the order will be followed,” raising fresh questions about his politicization of the armed forces.
Speaking during a TV interview, Bolsonaro said he would not “go into details into what I’m preparing.” But he said that “if we were to have problems, we have a plan of how to enter the field … our armed forces could one day go into the streets.”
The comments by Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who has long praised Brazil’s two-decade military dictatorship, will do little to assuage critics who fret about his politicization of the military. Others worry about his commitment to a peaceful handover of power in the event of a tight result in next year’s presidential election.
Pressure has grown on the president as Brazil’s coronavirus pandemic has spiraled out of control. He has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the outbreak in Brazil, which has the world’s second highest coronavirus death toll after the United States.
Last month, Bolsonaro put his former chief of staff in charge of the Defense Ministry and swapped all three commanders of the armed forces as part of a cabinet reshuffle that was met with shock from senior military officers.
Since his 2018 election victory, Bolsonaro has made baseless allegations of voter fraud in Brazil, which critics say could lay the groundwork to challenge upcoming elections in the same vein as his political idol, former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Bolsonaro threw his support behind Trump’s conspiracies of a stolen election last year, which culminated in his supporters’ deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol building in Washington.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Michael Perry)