Judge Prevents Celebration of 1964 Brazilian Military Coup

A judge has barred President Jair Bolsonaro’s planned celebration of the 1964 Brazilian military coup from taking place. The celebration was already considered a controversial move, with widespread public outrage ensuing after it was initially announced due to the numerous human rights violations carried out by the subsequent dictatorship.

The coup took place on March 31, 1964, when Brazilian military forces removed the democratically-elected leftist President Joao Goulart from office with the help of the United States government. At the time, this was regarded by many as a victory in the West and the Soviet Union ideological battle. The military went on to establish a repressive security state that lasted 21 years. During this time, nearly 8,000 indigenous people and over 400 political dissidents were murdered by the government. In addition, it is estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 indigenous people were arrested without reason and tortured. Authorities responsible for these atrocities have never been prosecuted, as they are under the protection of an amnesty law passed in 1979 and upheld by the Brazilian Supreme Court in 2010.

The military celebrated the anniversary of the coup every year until 2011, at which point former President Dilma Rousseff ended the practice. Rousseff was a former leftist guerilla who fought against the dictatorship and was captured and tortured by them. When Bolsonaro, a former army captain, voted to impeach Rousseff in 2016, he dedicated his vote to Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the man who was in charge of the torture center where Rousseff was imprisoned.

Although no exact plans were ever unveiled, Bolsonaro stated that March 31 would be a commemoration of the military coup. Criticism of this announcement was fairly unanimous. The Attorney General’s office released a scathing rebuke, stating, “The coup of 1964, without any possibility of doubt or revisionism of history, was a violent and antidemocratic rupture of the constitutional order.” Other critics claimed that Bolsonaro was attempting to rewrite Brazilian history, and made comparisons between Bolsonaro and Holocaust deniers.

Judge Ivani Silva da Luz ultimately barred the event from taking place, declaring that the event was not in line with the country’s goal of “democratic reconstruction.” He also stated that commemorative dates must be confirmed by Congress and cannot be a unilateral decision made by the president. Protests had been planned for March 31 if Bolsonaro’s plan was not stopped by the courts.

President Bolsonaro’s approval rating is at its lowest point in his presidency, with only a third of the country stating that his performance is “good.” This scandal will not help his declining numbers, as the Brazilian public appears to be increasingly tired of his antics.