Brazilian authorities investigating the riot by supporters of former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in Brasília on Sunday have turned up evidence that his administration was preparing the means to overturn his defeat in October’s election.
Police have discovered the draft of a decree declaring a “state of defence” and ordering the military to take over the country’s electoral court and set up a 15-member commission, eight of whom would be nominated by the minister of defence to undertake a “verification of the compliance and legality of the electoral process”.
Mr Bolsonaro lost a bitter contest to his left-wing opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and since then his supporters have fomented conspiracy theories that he was robbed of victory by the electoral court. Leading jurists said the draft decree had no legal basis as the constitution awards no role for the executive in overseeing Brazilian elections.
The document would have given form to the demand of Bolsonaro protesters for a military intervention with him remaining in power.
The draft decree was found in the home of Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, Anderson Torres, who is sought by authorities investigating Sunday’s disturbances. In his subsequent job as security secretary for the federal district, which includes Brasília, he was ultimately responsible for the policing operation at Sunday’s demonstration which quickly collapsed, letting Bolsonaro supporters invade and vandalise the presidential palace, congress and supreme court.
Currently in Florida, Mr Torres took to social media to say the draft decree had been “leaked out of context” and was with a pile of documents that should have been shredded, thus confirming that the highest echelons of the Bolsonaro administration were contemplating an unconstitutional manoeuvre to overturn his election defeat.
The draft document risks further complicating Mr Bolsonaro’s legal problems. The electoral court is already investigating his campaign for alleged law breaking during the presidential contest, including a series of virulent attacks against the court itself. If it finds the Bolsonaro campaign broke the law, it could ban him from running in future elections, hindering his ambitions to remain the national leader of Brazil’s hard right.
Separately 80 public prosecutors have demanded that the chief federal prosecutor, Augusto Aras, investigate Mr Bolsonaro for “incitement” after he published a video on his Facebook page in the early hours of Wednesday in which he once again questioned the electoral process, just three days after his supporters’ rampage in Brasília. The video was taken down after three hours. Efforts by Bolsonaro supporters to mobilise a new round of protests on Wednesday failed.
Meanwhile, Lula said he had lost confidence in part of the armed forces in his most direct comments yet on tensions between his new administration and the military high command. In a breakfast meeting with journalists, he explained his decision to replace military aides in the presidential palace with federal police and retired officers who served under him during his previous stint in office by referencing threats made against his life by junior officers who served under former generals in Mr Bolsonaro’s administration. “How can I have a guy at the door of my office who could shoot me?” he asked.