Ex-Brazilian president Bolsonaro meets with police as part of coup allegations

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and some of his former top aides have met with police as part of an investigation into allegations they plotted a coup to remove Mr Bolsonaro’s successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Mr Bolsonaro arrived at Federal Police headquarters in the capital Brasilia, as did some of his former officials, including some top military advisers.

The former leader chose to remain silent.

Supreme Court documents show the alleged plot involved Mr Bolsonaro signing a decree in the event that he lost the 2022 election to declare that the vote was fraudulent, to justify a possible military intervention and convene new elections.

President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Markus Schreiber/AP)

“Bolsonaro has never been sympathetic to any type of coup movement,” his lawyer Paulo Bueno told journalists in Brasilia.

No-one has been formally charged in the case.

A total of 23 people were expected to give statements on Thursday, of which 13 were in Brasilia, according to a federal official.

Among them were Mr Bolsonaro; his 2022 running mate and minister, General Walter Braga Netto; a former adviser, General Augusto Heleno; former justice minister Anderson Torres; and the head of Mr Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, Valdemar Costa Neto.

“Police can begin to identify inconsistencies or gaps in information, no matter how much they have prepared for it,” said Leonardo Paz, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a think tank and university in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr Bolsonaro said before the meeting he would probably decline to comment to police, citing a lack of access to documents.

“I follow the advice of the lawyers. If they have access (to the file) by tomorrow, obviously I’ll talk,” he said during an interview with CBN radio on Wednesday.

Next steps will depend on the information police extract from Thursday’s statements.

Jair Bolsonaro in 2021
Jair Bolsonaro in 2021 (Michael M Santiago/PA)

They also seized the former leader’s passport as part of the investigation.

Police said in a statement that they targeted suspects who “acted to attempt a coup d’etat”.

Mr Bolsonaro repeatedly sowed doubt about the reliability of Brazil’s voting system, never conceded defeat and declined to attend Mr Lula’s inauguration, though he left the country and kept a low profile in the days ahead of Mr Lula’s swearing-in on January 1 2023.

On January 8 2023, Bolsonaro supporters launched a rampage in the capital.

The former president, who is barred from running for office again until 2030 after an electoral court ruling against him, has called on supporters to demonstrate in his favour on February 25 in one of Sao Paulo’s key arteries.

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