Lines had been crossed many times, but Bolsonaro had never dared to go this far. Throwing mud at his own country’s democracy in front of some 50 foreign ambassadors, as he did on Monday, was indeed something so big that even conservative forces were up in arms: “Bolsonaro dishonors Brazil,” was the unsurprising headline from O Estado de São Paulo, the newspaper representing the interests of financial power, which wrote of “an absolutely unprecedented and shocking act that offends national institutions, humiliates the country and fills the entire population with shame.”
It was more than “just” another among his countless attacks on the electronic voting system: in the meeting with ambassadors convened at the Palácio da Alvorada, the official residence of Brazil’s president, and broadcast live on public television, Bolsonaro spewed outright lies about the electoral system, which he called “completely vulnerable,” attacked the judges of the Superior Electoral Tribunal (SET) and the Supreme Court, and demanded a parallel vote count by the armed forces for the Oct. 2 elections.
Using PowerPoint with abandon, a tool that gained infamy after prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol used it against Lula during the judicial farce against the former president, Bolsonaro spread conspiracy theories and denounced alleged fraud. For instance, he referred to the federal police investigation into a hack on electronic ballot boxes in 2018: “At this point, the investigation has not been concluded. The 2020 elections should not have taken place in the absence of an audit,” the president claimed. He lied, because the investigation did reach a conclusion: that the hackers’ access had posed “no risk to the integrity of the electoral process.”
But the president also attacked another branch of state power head-on, baselessly describing SET President Edson Fachin as a lawyer for the supposedly “terrorist” Landless Movement, blaming the judge who “set Lula free” and accusing him and Judges Moraes and Barroso of being “people who bring instability” to the country.
This time, the reactions came from almost everywhere: from members of the army high command, the three federal police associations, and even the large conservative press, as well as from political forces, jurists, the most diverse civil society organizations, and the movements that started the Fora Bolsonaro Campaign in 2021 and that today are urging “a strong reaction against the possible coup.”
Even the U.S. Embassy reacted, with a note in which it called Brazil’s electoral system a “model for the world,” highlighting the country’s “strong track record of free and fair elections, with transparency and high levels of voter participation.”
Almost the only one who did not condemn Bolsonaro was the President of the Chamber, the hardcore Bolsonarist Arthur Lira, the same man who has been shielding the president from any calls for impeachment.
But reactions, however indignant, were not enough in the past, and are not enough today. As the anthropologist and political scientist Luiz Eduardo Soares has denounced, the fact that Bolsonaro “announced the coup and was not arrested, nor did the population take to the streets en masse, is proof that we are not under the rule rule of law”; clearly, “if the institutions were working,” this president would no longer be in office by now.
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