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Brazil: how authorities act to demobilize Brazilian Spring protester camps in barracks

By Rodolfo Costa

Compulsorily, negotiated or voluntarily, the camps of Brazilian Spring protesters suspecting rigged elections and therefore opposed to the result of the 2022 elections may have their days numbered, especially the one set up in front of the Army Headquarters (HQ), in Brasília.

The transition cabinet of president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) and the governor of the Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha (MDB), work to demobilize the camp in the federal capital and have the support of the Army.

At least 40 tents and two kitchens were dismantled in the camp in front of the HQ, informed Ibaneis this Tuesday (27). According to him, demobilization and disassembly are done voluntarily and negotiated.

According to a conservative leadership that works with the street movements, the Army has not acted to remove the demonstrators from the HQ, but it is making it difficult to install new tents (Photo internet reproduction)

He confirmed that the Secretariat of Public Security of the Federal District (SSP-DF) maintains dialogue with the Army to “accelerate the demobilization,” which, according to him, has been done “for several weeks.”

“We are waiting for new operations until inauguration day so that we can demobilize all these personnel. The Army has been taking care of this on a daily basis, dismantling part of the camps. This is happening quite peacefully. The news we have from General Dutra [commander Planalto military] is that the demobilization is being done little by little, and this has brought a more peaceful environment,” said Ibaneis.

In response to the newspaper Valor Econômico published on Monday (26) to a question asked about the possibility of demobilizing the camp in front of the HQ, the Army Social Communication Center (CCOMSEx) informed that it maintains “permanent connection” with the public security agencies in the Federal District.

According to a conservative leadership that works with the street movements, the Army has not acted to remove the demonstrators from the HQ, but it is making it difficult to install new tents. “The Army itself is making it difficult by not letting new barracks in,” he tells Gazeta do Povo privately.

Members of Lula da Silva’s transitional cabinet, on the other hand, adopted divergent speeches about the camp in front of the HQ. On Monday, the future Minister of Defense, José Mucio Monteiro, told Valor Econômico that there was no intention of taking “anyone by force”. This Tuesday, at a press conference with Ibaneis, he said he believed that the movement of protesters has been peaceful and that the attack supposedly planned by one of his regulars was an isolated act.

The future Minister of Justice, Flávio Dino (PSB), in turn, previously stated that the camps have become “incubators for terrorists” and said this Tuesday that he is studying the compulsory removal of groups of demonstrators. In an interview with CNN Brasil, he said that the camp in front of the HQ is in the “final phase” and again criticized the demonstrators. “We are seeing an attempt, unfortunately, to bring political terrorism to Brazil, and we are not going to accept it,” he declared.

HOW THE MILITARY BELIEVE THE DEMOBILIZATION OF THE CAMPS WILL HAPPEN

Despite the work between the Army and public security agencies in the Federal District, active and reserve military personnel heard by Gazeta do Povo find it unlikely that the armed force will adopt any direct measures to demobilize the camps, including the one in front of the HQ in Brasilia.

For them, any emptying will happen as a result of a natural process, when Lula da Silva takes office and the protesters assimilate that their claims will not be met.

Retired general Paulo Chagas is one of those who believes in this hypothesis. “I think this will naturally deflate when he [Lula da Silva] takes office. With all the defects and problems that we see in relation to a person like him taking office, but the people elected Lula da Silva, even knowing who he is, he says.

The military suspects the election result and thinks that President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) should have taken measures to ask for the opening of the source code of the polls, but preaches respect for the current scenario.

Chagas knows from people close to him that the camp in Brasilia is “emptying itself” and believes that the trend is towards a peaceful demobilization, which, in his understanding, should have been defended by President Bolsonaro. The general believes that there will be no need for the military to act and that, after taking office, there will be at most “three or four” tents set up that can be demobilized by the Army Police itself in agreement with the demonstrators.

“They will politely ask them to leave so they can recover that area, which has become a quagmire, it will take time to recover and it will have to be recovered. I don’t even know what they are going to do to recover that, but they will have to recover,” Chagas says.

Reserve Colonel Walter Félix Cardoso Júnior also does not believe in the possibility of the Army ordering a demobilization in front of the HQ. “The Army will not play this role of ‘passing the squeegee’ or authorizing ‘passing the squeegee’ there,”,he evaluates.

He was security coordinator of Bolsonaro’s transitional cabinet in 2018 and worked at the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs (SAE) of the Presidency in management.

Félix is unaware of any authorization granted by the Army for the Public Security Secretariat of the Federal District to act in the demobilization of the camps.

Regarding the difficulties imposed by the Army to set up new tents, he believes that this is linked to a security reason, not a political decision or influence. He explains that, in that region, active-duty Army generals (the “four stars”) live.

“This determination could be for a security reason. It could be that the thing has gotten out of control and this could be interfering with the security routines of the Force. But not that this has a political reason, because the Army has always been on the side of the people,” he highlights.

An active-duty military man, who preferred not to be identified in the report, corroborates the reading and claims that Lula da Silva’s transitional cabinet may even try to convince the military, but believes that this would only generate greater wear and tear on the Armed Forces, both with the left and with movements from the right.

ARMY DENIES ASSOCIATION OF COMMAND PASSAGE TO CAMPS

The military also reject the hypothesis that the anticipation of the passage of the Army Command, announced this Tuesday (27), is a form of demobilization of the HQ camps in Brasília, as it came to be ventilated.

The current commander, General Freire Gomes, will step down this Friday (30) and will be succeeded by Lula da Silva’s nominee, General Júlio Cesar de Arruda. The Army ensures, however, that this has no connection with the demonstrators.

“The handover of Command will take place on December 30th. The date was set in coordination with the Ministry of Defense, regardless of the actions in relation to the demonstrators’ camps”, informs Gazeta do Povo the Center for Social Communication of the Army (CCOMSEx).

The commanders of the Navy, Fleet Admiral Almir Garnier Santos, and of the Air Force, Lieutenant-Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior, should remain until the end of their mandates, on December 31st.

They will be succeeded by Fleet Admiral Marcos Sampaio Olsen and Air Lieutenant Brigadier Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno, both appointed by Lula da Silva.

General Paulo Chagas sees the choice of date for the Army Command handover ceremony as natural and considers that it is a preventive attitude to ensure there is no discontinuity of activities and ensure institutional normality and the situation of order.

“Let’s say there’s a riot. In the midst of turmoil, if there is a need for force intervention, is it possible to change the command of the Army? So, as a matter of operational safety, it’s better to change it beforehand,” he comments.

Retired general Santos Cruz makes a similar analysis. “I think this handover date has nothing to do with the camp in front of HQ. This is just an administrative arrangement. It is a ceremony that has a formality, it has invited personnel, troops, etc”, he points out.

“Saturday (31st) and Sunday (1st) will be for the preparations and inauguration ceremony of the President of the Republic. It is an absolutely normal schedule that, for me, has nothing to do with that camp,” he reinforces.

Santos Cruz says that it is normal to have Command handover ceremonies on different days and points out that the Air Force ceremony is scheduled for next Monday (2). The passage ceremony of the Navy Command is scheduled to take place on Thursday (5).

With information from Gazeta do Povo

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