It is impossible to understand what is happening in Brazil today without mentioning the institutional coup d’état of 2016. The dimension of the current Brazilian crisis cannot be reached without considering this institutional rupture. Its accomplishment symbolizes the end of the Brazilian democratic period that began in the 1980s (the New Republic) and opened the door to the election of the ultra-conservative and authoritarian government of Jair Bolsonaro. As a precondition for discussing “broad fronts”, “democratic fronts” and solutions to the crisis, this fact cannot be ignored.
Scams and Neogolpes
The coup d’etat is a concept that has existed since the 17th century and has taken different forms over time. If the concept is evolutionary, why shouldn’t this change continue to happen? The specialized literature has maintained its understanding of the coup d’etat as synonymous with a type of phenomenon common in the twentieth century in Latin America. However, there is an urgent need for the paradigm of the military coup to be nuanced, so that one can understand what is going on. For example, the neo-golps suffered by Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2009), Fernando Lugo in Paraguay (2012) and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil (2016).
It is in the sense of a new type of coup that we have adopted the definition of neo-golpism to understand the processes of destabilization and overthrow of legitimately elected governments. This new type does not involve the use of physical violence by the military and is pursued by distorted interpretations of institutions, combining institutional strategies with the mobilization of sectors of civil society through oligopolized media and digital social networks. These characteristics aim to cover non-electoral strategies of gaining power with a certain legality and legitimacy.
An important point about neogolps is that they are more procedural and subtle forms of concentrated use of force. What has been strengthened now is the use of institutions in its execution. Thus, the neogolpes must be understood as a type of coup d’état which preserves certain legal appearances, and which takes place preferentially by current institutional means and the accomplishment of formal rites.
These more procedural and subtle forms are more difficult to identify and condemn. But these are real blows, since they retain their essential element: they are ruptures, ruptures, in which their central agents are part of the state apparatus. What has changed since the concept was invented is, to a certain extent, the pluralization of its agents, but above all the means used to achieve it: the appearance of legality.
New definitions of the coup
A precise definition should avoid vague notions, such as neo-swings or 21st century scams. These concepts only define the phenomenon for what it is not: a military coup. Other concepts go further, defining the phenomenon for what it actually is, such as the idea of a “parliamentary coup”.
However, Parliament is not its only agent. This may not even be the main one, given the weight of the judiciary in the enforcement, recognition and legal nuances of the whole process. In the neo-golpes, the conservative political sectors presented themselves as the main agents, acting through the legislative and judicial powers with the support of the military corporation.
In addition, they are supported by the local bourgeoisie, middle class, religious sectors and media oligopolies with the support of international right-wing think tanks and the US government. If we defined the concept based on the agents of the coup, we could end up with an unusable descriptive concept: “parliamentary-judicial-civilian-military coup …”.
A definition must be sought centered on the means used. We can ask ourselves two questions about a scam: who does it? And how is it done? To the first question, we can answer that they are still agents of the same state, which is essential to the concept of a coup from the beginning. The transformation underway is linked to the second question, how is it done. So the best concepts are a soft stroke or a soft stroke, which focuses on “how it’s done”: in a subtle and non-violent way.
The new type of scam mainly tries to fake that it is not a scam. In the past, scams could look like scams. Now that democracy has hegemonic value, even in its elitist and liberal conception, coups must resemble democratic processes. In this way, while preserving certain formal mockery, one cannot categorically state that democracy has been violated.
If the neo-golpes are the ones that do not look like scams, it is done by their treatment (distorted) by the institutions. So my suggestion to call them “institutional scams”.
The Brazilian institutional coup of 2016
This is exactly what happened in Brazil in 2016, with the collapse of a government elected a year and a half earlier, with no reports of crimes linked to the president, in addition to the obscure argument of “pedaling.” fiscal ”carried out in his government and in all the precedents.
With a long anti-corruption media campaign and large street protests led by the middle class, the climate of the coup has been reached, once again, without any accusation of corruption against the president, subject to political judgment. In fact, it was only an indictment. A vote of no confidence in a minority government, typical of parliamentary regimes. But in this case, it was carried out under a presidential regime …
This would not be possible without the (now very well documented) criminal association of federal prosecutors and a trial judge, with inside information provided by the US state: Operation Lava Jato. With the disclosure of the hacked dialogues between them, it is possible to perceive the entire arrangement and prior condemnation established since the beginning of this operation, as well as its final political objectives.
And now we also know that it was carried out with the support of the army and its mobilization to articulate the candidacy of Bolsonaro in 2018, as well as the arrest and suspension of the candidacy of his main opponent: Lula. A coup d’etat without explicit violence does not mean that it is pursued without the participation of the military.
The revelations in the memoirs recently published by Eduardo Villas Bôas, then chief of staff of the armed forces, explain the participation of the company in the whole process. They make it easier to understand the role of the Brazilian armed forces in the current government, which is increasingly taking on a military character. They indicate, once again, the tutelage that the Brazilian army has always exercised over the state, its veto over democratization processes, its authoritarian and anti-popular character.
With the explicit militarization of the Bolsonaro government, the stalemate in Brazilian democracy becomes evident.
For a re-democratization, it will be necessary to revisit the institutional coup. The overturning of Lula’s convictions in the Supreme Federal Court and the probable declaration of suspicion over the actions of ex-Judge Moro by the same court were a good start.
These two measures are, for the moment, the first good news in many years. Something is moving. We will wait for the reaction of Bolonarism and the military.