Armoured vehicles roll through streets of Brasília as congress prepares to vote on plans to change Brazil’s voting system
Critics have denounced Jair Bolsonaro’s “banana republic-style” decision to send combat vehicles on to the streets of Brazil’s capital for a rare military parade in what was widely seen as a beleaguered president’s ham-fisted attempt to project strength.
Bolsonaro, whose ratings have plunged as a result of his chaotic response to the Covid pandemic, looked on from the marble ramp outside the presidential palace as a motorcade of armoured vehicles trundled past on Tuesday morning.
“Ridiculous. Grotesque. Pitiful. Needless. Banana Republic stuff,” tweeted the Brasília-based journalist Brunno Melo as the procession advanced under a perfect blue sky.
The hastily arranged parade – which experts said had no precedent in the years since the restoration of democracy in 1985 – was reportedly ordered by Bolsonaro last Friday and came on the same day members of congress were scheduled to vote on highly controversial Bolsonaro-backed plans to change Brazil’s voting system.
It also followed a succession of incendiary and anti-democratic remarks from Brazil’s leader, an authoritarian-minded former army captain who has said next year’s presidential elections may not happen if the changes are not approved.
“This is an obvious and explicit attempt by Bolsonaro to show that the armed forces are on his side,” said Thaís Oyama, a political journalist who first reported plans for the military mobilisation on Monday.
Oyama called the event “typical Bolsonaro”. She said: “The only language he speaks is provocation. The only thing he understands is threats and chaos. He is obsessed with demonstrating that the armed forces are on his side.”
João Roberto Martins Filho, a leading military expert, said the procession was “completely unheard of” in the nearly four decades since the end of the 1964-85 military dictatorship and was an attempt by Bolsonaro to reaffirm his dominance.
“There are those who say the military chiefs control Bolsonaro … but I think he is utterly uncontrollable,” Martins Filho said.
Opposition politicians from left and right condemned the spectacle, which the defence ministry claimed was held to formally invite Bolsonaro to annual navy training exercises due to start next week near the capital. Those exercises have been held every year since 1988, however, and never before have armoured vehicles been sent to the heart of Brasília, which also houses Brazil’s congress and supreme court.
Alessandro Vieira, a centre-right senator, said it was unacceptable to squander public money on “an empty exhibition of military might”. “Brazil isn’t a toy in the hands of lunatics,” Vieira tweeted.
Sen Simone Tebet denounced the “improper and unconstitutional intimidation” of Brazil’s democratic system.
Omar Aziz, the president of a congressional inquiry into a Covid catastrophe that has killed more than half a million Brazilians, said: “Bolsonaro thinks this shows strength, but it’s actually just evidence of the fragility of a president who is cornered by corruption investigations … and the administrative incompetence that has caused death, hunger and unemployment in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic.”
Many also regarded the president’s tanqueciata (tank parade) – which lasted only 10 minutes, featured a distinctly limited selection of fume-spewing military hardware, including a single model of Austrian tank, and was attended by only about 100 hardcore Bolsonaro supporters – as a fiasco.
Marcelo Soares, a São Paulo-based journalist, called the pageant a “legitimate show of farce”.
José Roberto de Toledo, a political journalist from the magazine Piauí, compared the procession to the 1959 British comedy The Mouse That Roared, in which the puny Duchy of Grand Fenwick declares war on the US.
“It’s unbelievable … The only explanation is that they are trying to convince congress they need more money for equipment,” Toledo said. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined they were capable of something so pathetic. It looks like it was staged by the opposition, or some infiltrated communist.”
Another wit compared the underwhelming cast of vehicles to the cartoon TV series Wacky Races.
Adding to the sense of absurdity, one pro-Bolsonaro lawmaker celebrated Bolsonaro’s parade on Twitter using an image of Chinese tanks processing through Beijing’s Tiananmen Square two years ago to mark the anniversary of Mao Zedong’s 1949 communist revolution.
Martins Filho said it was troubling that the commander of Brazil’s navy – appointed this year after the defence minister and heads of all three branches of the armed forces were forced out by Bolsonaro – had not resigned when asked to stage an “absolutely unnecessary” parade that had badly backfired. [SOURCE]
“The comments people are making about the armed forces [today] are absolutely brutal. I just don’t understand how they don’t see the damage this is doing to their image.