Bolsonaro proposed Brazil coup plan after 2022 election loss: Court records

Top military leaders reported plan to police, said they would arrest Bolsonaro if he moved forward, documents show.

Former President Jair Bolsonaro addresses supporters during a rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil [Andre Penner/The Associated Press]

Top military leaders in Brazil have alleged that former President Jair Bolsonaro presented them with a plan to reverse the results of the 2022 presidential election, according to court documents.

The filings, released on Friday, offer some of the first evidence that Bolsonaro was directly involved in an effort to subvert the vote, which he narrowly lost to left-wing candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The documents contain testimony from the former commanders of the country’s army and air force, both of whom said they refused to accept the right-wing president’s plan.

Instead, they alleged they warned Bolsonaro that any attempt to overturn the election results could lead to his arrest.

The allegations emerge as part of several probes Bolsonaro faces before Brazil’s Supreme Court, including an investigation that seeks to determine his involvement in a 2023 attack on key government buildings, shortly after Lula’s inauguration.

Friday’s court filings contain a federal police report, in which former army commander Marco Antonio Freire Gomes described Bolsonaro holding several unscheduled meetings at the presidential palace after the second round of voting in 2022.

Gomes told federal police that, in one of the gatherings, Bolsonaro told the three commanders of his military, as well as then-Defence Secretary Paulo Sergio Nogueira, that he wanted to create a commission to “investigate the confirmation and the legality of the electoral process”.

He added other tools could be used to look into the elections, including a decree calling for a state of siege. Gomes said he repeatedly told Bolsonaro that “under the conditions at the time, there was no possibility to reverse the result of the elections from a military standpoint”.

Former Air Force commander Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior also told federal police he rejected Bolsonaro’s efforts. He said that he believed that Gomes’s rebuke was key to stopping Bolsonaro from seeking to reverse the election results.

“General Freire Gomes said that, if such move was attempted, he would have to arrest the president,” the court filings read.

Confiscated passport

The release has come as prosecutors have continued to pursue an investigation into whether Bolsonaro and his inner circle sought to overturn the election through a military coup. In February, police confiscated Bolsonaro’s passport amid a series of raids.

At the time, a court order by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said that Bolsonaro had received a draft decree in November 2022, prepared by his aides, that would have overturned the election results.

It would have also issued arrest warrants for Moraes, as well as fellow Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes and Senate leader Rodrigo Pacheco.

The court order said that Bolsonaro had requested some changes to the draft decree, but his edited version continued to call for the arrest of Moraes and for a new presidential election.

Bolsonaro has already been ruled ineligible to run for office until 2030 after Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court determined in June that he had spread false claims about the election and misused public funds to do so.

Investigators are also continuing to search for links between Bolsonaro and the riots on January 8, 2023, which trashed government buildings in the capital Brasilia.

Bolsonaro refused to publicly concede defeat following his election loss, and he and his allies have suggested the result was the result of voter fraud.

Source: AP, News Agencies