Bolsonaro running mate probed over plan to deploy special forces in Brazil coup plot

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 9:41 AM

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian police are investigating if a retired general who was far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro’s running mate planned to bring Army special forces to the country’s capital as part of a plan for a military coup after losing the 2022 election.

General Walter Braga Netto, who had been Bolsonaro’s defense minister and chief of staff, discussed preparing the travel and housing for members of a guerilla warfare unit to help foment a coup in Brasilia, according to documents seen by Reuters and two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

They say investigators have found Braga Netto played a key role in a plot led by Bolsonaro to prevent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva taking office. The plot was foiled by former commanders of the Army and Navy who said they refused to join the conspiracy.

“Braga Netto acted as an encourager and influencer among the other Army commanders,” said one of the sources, who asked for anonymity to speak openly about an ongoing investigation.

The source said investigators suspect Braga Netto was seeking to finance both members of the special forces and Bolsonaro supporters camped outside Army headquarters in Brasilia calling for the military to annul the election result.

Braga Netto’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The documents seen by Reuters show Braga Netto hosted a meeting at his apartment in Brasilia to discuss how to raise funds to bring a contingent of elite soldiers to the capital for the coup attempt.

The meeting took place less than two weeks after Bolsonaro lost a runoff vote to Lula in late October.

According to the sources, the plan hatched at that meeting was to secretly bring to Brasilia troops with special training in counter-insurgency warfare and sabotage techniques to provoke violence to justify martial law and annulling the election.

The plan included a draft decree for declaring a “state of siege,” copies of which have been found by police investigators.

The conspirators discussed the need for 100,000 reais for “transport, hotel and material” costs to bring members of the special forces to Brasilia, the sources said.

Braga Netto refused to answer questions by Federal Police about such a plan, according Supreme Court documents unsealed last week.

Bolsonaro has denied attempting a coup in the days after his election defeat, which he never conceded. He left for the United States to avoid handing the presidential sash to Lula.

Days later, his supporters who had camped out for weeks opposite Army headquarters stormed government buildings in a violent attempt to provoke a coup.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Chizu Nomiyama)