Brazil’s army chief fired in aftermath of capital uprising

Jan 20, 2023, 8:58 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2023, 4:24 pm
An agent walks past the head of a statue depicting the Greek goddess Themis, outside the Brazilian ...

An agent walks past the head of a statue depicting the Greek goddess Themis, outside the Brazilian Supreme Court building that was damaged by supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Bolsonaro supporters who refuse to accept his election defeat stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace Sunday, a week after the inauguration of his leftist rival, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired Brazil’s army chief Saturday just days after the leftist leader openly said that some military members allowed the Jan. 8 uprising in the capital by far-right protesters.

The official website of the Brazilian armed forces said Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda had been removed as head of the army. He was replaced by Gen. Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, who was head of the Southeast Military Command.

Lula, who did not comment publicly on the firing, met with Defense Minister Jose Mucio, chief of staff Rui Costa and the new army commander in Brasilia at the end of the day. Speaking to journalists afterward, Mucio said the Jan. 8 riots had caused “a fracture in the level of trust” in the army’s top levels and the government decided a change was needed.

In recent weeks, Lula targeted the military with criticism after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed through government buildings and destroyed public property in an attempt to keep Bolsonaro in office.

The uprising underlined the polarization in Brazil between the left and the right.

Lula said several times in public that there were definitely people in the army who allowed the rioting to occur, though he never cited Arruda.

During a breakfast with the press, Lula said earlier this week that “a lot of people from the military police and the armed forces were complicit” and had allowed protesters to enter the buildings with open doors. In another interview, the president said that “all the military involved in the coup attempt will be punished, no matter the rank.”

The comments were followed by Lula scheduling several meetings with the defense minister and the armed forces’ commanders. Mucio denied they had mentioned the Jan. 8 rioting, but he said relations between the military and the government needed adjustment.

On the eve of Arruda’s firing, a video of a Paiva speech earlier in the week was released in which he said the election results should be respected in order to guarantee democracy.

Rioters who stormed through the Brazilian Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court in Brasilia sought to have the military intervene and overturn Bolsonaro’s loss to Lula in the presidential election.

In a video posted on social media from inside the presidential palace on the day of the attack, a colonel is seen trying to stop police from arresting Bolsonaro’s supporters who had invaded the building. He asks for patience from the military police, which report to the federal district’s government.

More than a thousand people were arrested on the day of the riot and the morning after the disturbance, which bore strong similarities to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Congress by mobs who wanted to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election loss.

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice earlier this month authorized adding Bolsonaro in its investigation into who incited the rioting in Brasilia as part of a broader crackdown to hold responsible parties to account.

According to the text of his ruling, Justice Alexandre de Moraes granted the request from the prosecutor-general’s office, which cited a video that Bolsonaro posted on Facebook two days after the riot. The video claimed Lula wasn’t voted into office, but rather was chosen by the Supreme Court and Brazil’s electoral authority.

Lula has been trying to reduce the high number of military officers in the government administration left by Bolsonaro. At least 140 military officers have been dismissed since Lula took office Jan. 1.

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AP

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Brazil’s army chief fired in aftermath of capital uprising