Brazil military chiefs quit as Bolsonaro seeks their support

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The leaders of all three branches of Brazil’s armed forces jointly resigned on Tuesday following Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s replacement of the defence minister, causing widespread apprehension of a military shakeup to serve the president’s political interests.

The Defence Ministry reported the resignations — apparently unprecedented since at least the end of military rule 36 years ago — in a statement released without giving reasons. Replacements were not named. But analysts expressed fears the president, increasingly under pressure, was moving to assert greater control over the military.

“Since 1985, we haven’t had news of such clear intervention of the president with regard to the armed forces,” said political science professor Carlos Melo at Insper University in Sao Paulo.

Conservative former army captain Bolsonaro, who has often praised Brazil’s former period of military dictatorship, has relied heavily on current and former soldiers to staff key Cabinet positions since taking office in January 2019, but Melo said the military itself has so far refrained from politics.

“Will this resistance continue? That’s the question,” Melo said.

The announcement came after the heads of the army, navy and air force met with the new Defence Minister, General Walter Souza Braga Netto on Tuesday morning.

Demonstrators pray in support of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in front of the Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. PHOTO: AP