Journalism from the center of the world

Terrorists invade the Brazilian National Congress in Brasilia on January 8, 2023. Photo: Edison Bueno/Estadão Conteúdo

We breathed. For a week. And then Jair Bolsonaro’s terrorists invaded the Palácio do Planalto (Brazil’s seat of government), the National Congress and the Supreme Court, while their chief was conveniently in Florida, where he had fled even before his term in office ended. It is imperative that Bolsonaro is brought back to Brazil, to be tried and imprisoned for his crimes. And that each of the criminals who attempted a coup on Sunday, January 8, 2023, be identified, located, tried and punished. We cannot allow the air to be stolen from us again. The authorities must do their part, but it is not only down to them. Fighting for democracy is a non-transferable task for all of Brazilian society.

In his first speech after the attempted coup, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, suggested that illegal miners and loggers from the Amazon were involved in the acts of terrorism in the Praça dos Três Poderes. It is reasonable to assume the President is in possession of intelligence to justify this claim. When the investigations are complete, the link between the protagonists of the coup and notorious Amazon land grabbers, who often live in the central-southern states of Brazil, will come as a surprise to no one.

The terrorist who tried to explode a bomb at the airport in Brasília in December is a businessman from Pará, who works in the fuel and transport sector in cities in the arc of deforestation. His name, George Washington de Oliveira Souza, lends a note of fantastic realism to the terrorist attempt. Jair Bolsonaro had a similar idea when he was a soldier in the Army, hatching a terrorist plan to explode bombs in barracks as a strategy to achieve higher wages. Instead of someone of this level of cruelty and irresponsibility being punished and prevented from holding public office, he continued to commit crimes with impunity, and became President of the Republic.

Enough impunity. No amnesty for state criminals.

The impunity for violations committed by agents of the state during Brazil’s business-military dictatorship, which controlled the country between 1964 and 1985, spawned the monster in human form that is Bolsonaro, who held us hostage for four years, leaving behind a devastated country, a forest very close to the point of no return, and almost 700,000 dead from Covid-19 – there are solid research findings to prove that a large part of these deaths could have been avoided had he not boycotted the fight against the pandemic. The right-wing extremist encouraged, and continues to encourage, coups. Like the coward he always was, he now carries out his hateful acts beside Mickey Mouse, while his terrorist stooges expose themselves to shame and become part of the sewer of history. If we want a future, we cannot allow impunity to scar the present, as occurred in the past. As [indigenous leader, writer and philosopher] Ailton Krenak wrote, “the future is now, there may be no tomorrow”.

SUMAÚMA’s manual uses the term “corporate-military dictatorship” to refer to the 1964 coup in Brazil, which subjected the country to a 21-year state of exception, in which hundreds of civilians were arrested, tortured, kidnapped and murdered. Some of the bodies are still missing, torturing their families to this day. The number of indigenous people killed is many times higher: more than 8,000 indigenous people were murdered during the dictatorship, most of them in the Amazon..

We use business-military dictatorship to never forget the participation of a significant part of the country’s business community in the destruction of democracy and the crimes committed by it. Their involvement is notorious, and there is even a documentary about it, with one of those responsible, Albert Henning Boilesen, insisting on witnessing the torture in person. Once again, there is support from businessmen in the putschist acts following Lula’s election victory, and in the coup attempt on Sunday, as there was during the right-wing extremist Bolsonaro’s term in office. It is imperative that the financiers and organizers of terrorist acts are identified, prosecuted and punished. Just as it is imperative to establish how it was possible for a pre-announced coup attempt to be carried out without the responsible authorities, in every public sphere and level of government, preventing it. It is worth remembering that the coup plotters arrived at Praça dos Três Poderes on foot, and made their preparations in front of the headquarters of the Brazilian military.

If the coup was not consummated, it has succeeded in delaying every urgent action and debate in Brazil. Even ministerial inaugurations, such as that of Sonia Guajajara, at the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, has had to be postponed. The catastrophic situation caused by the invasion of illegal miners in the Yanomami, Munduruku and Kayapó territories, among others, continues to worsen every day. Those threatened with death by land grabbers, such as the camponese (smallhold farmer) leader Erasmo Theofilo, the quilombola (member of a community founded by escaped enslaved peoples) Natalha Theofilo, and their four small children, remain refugees, to escape being killed. Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism keep trying – and succeeding – to hijack time, and submit us to their perverse reality, so we do nothing but react. We must regain control of the debate, and our days.

We at SUMAÚMA have always said that, once the catastrophe was overcome, we would face the truly difficult part. We breathed, yes, when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ascended the ramp next to Raoni, Brazil’s most important indigenous figurehead, as well as other representatives of minority groups who were massacred in the last four years of Bolsonarism. There could be no better symbology for Brazil’s new moment. We breathe, but without dropping our guard.

It’s time to keep fighting like a forest: upright and filled with vitality. We will not permit an amnesty for State criminals.

Translated by James Young

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