Brazilian Ex-President Bolsonaro Targeted in Federal Investigation Over Alleged Military Takeover Plot

RIO DE JANEIRO — Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is now the subject of a federal investigation into whether his administration conspired to orchestrate a military takeover of the country, according to police officials. The officials, who spoke anonymously to The Washington Post, revealed that Bolsonaro has been given a 24-hour deadline to surrender his passport. This development coincided with a search-and-seizure operation conducted by federal police, which targeted several of Bolsonaro’s closest advisers and aides, including former justice minister Anderson Torres and Bolsonaro’s running mate, Walter Braga Netto.

The news of the investigation has sent shockwaves through Brazil, a country still recovering from the attack on its federal buildings last year, carried out by thousands of Bolsonaro supporters. The incident occurred in the aftermath of a fiercely divided presidential election. This latest revelation brings the possibility of a former president facing prosecution one step closer.

Since leaving office after being defeated by current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro and his allies have faced numerous allegations and probes into corruption. These include claims of lying about Bolsonaro’s vaccination status to U.S. authorities, mishandling state jewelry, and using government surveillance to spy on opponents. However, the most significant investigation has been the one overseen by the Brazilian supreme court, delving into whether Bolsonaro’s government was planning to undermine democracy and retain power regardless of the 2022 election outcome.

Fresh findings by federal police have now uncovered that the plot to seize power was more advanced than previously known. This included detailed logistical and tactical planning that involved high-ranking officials within the Brazilian government, collaborating with military officials. Prior to the election, Bolsonaro and his allies frequently made baseless claims, both in public and on social media, about electoral fraud and the unreliability of the Brazilian electoral system. Police now assert that these remarks were part of the strategy to provide political cover for a potential military takeover.

In response to the investigation, Bolsonaro has denied the allegations, insisting that he is a victim of political persecution. He stated, “I left office more than a year ago, and I’m still enduring relentless prosecution.” Yet, these latest developments are expected to exacerbate the existing political polarization in Brazil, as the nation remains deeply divided over Bolsonaro’s presidency and his alleged involvement in the attack on Brasília in January 2022.

Bolsonaro’s son, Flávio, who is a Brazilian senator, characterized the police operation as a “fishing expedition” and an attempt to “destroy the right.” Meanwhile, former president Lula, speaking during a radio interview in Minas Gerais, expressed no doubt about Bolsonaro’s involvement in the alleged military plan. Lula remarked, “It couldn’t have happened without him. His behavior was so strange. Before the elections, he spent the entire time lying about the election, about the vote, casting suspicion on a process that elected him in 2018. It was a tactic.”

As Brazil grapples with the unfolding investigation into Bolsonaro’s government, the country faces heightened political tensions and uncertainty surrounding the future of its former president.