Brazil's Lula fires army chief in wake of riots

Supporters of Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on Jan 8, 2023. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sacked the country’s army chief, General Julio Cesar de Arruda, in the wake of riots earlier this month by supporters of former leader Jair Bolsonaro, military sources told AFP on Saturday.

Gen Arruda had only taken up the post on Dec 30, two days before the end of Mr Bolsonaro’s mandate, and was confirmed by Mr Lula’s administration in early January.

He will be replaced by southeastern army commander Tomas Ribeiro Paiva, GloboNews reported.

Gen Arruda had taken part in Mr Lula’s first meeting with his military top brass on Friday.

Neither made a statement at the conclusion of those discussions.

The move comes days after Mr Lula removed several dozen soldiers from his security detail following the unrest.

On Jan 8, Bolsonaro supporters ransacked the presidential palace, Supreme Court and Congress in Brasilia, breaking windows and furniture, destroying priceless works of art, and leaving graffiti messages calling for a military coup.

Mr Lula has said he suspects security forces may have been involved in the riots, in which more than 2,000 people were arrested.

The leftist president announced a “deep review” of his immediate environment.

A man takes pictures of a vandalised vehicle outside the Supreme Court building in Brasilia on Jan 10, 2023, two days after thousands of Bolsonaro supporters rioted. PHOTO: AFP

Defence Minister Jose Mucio said following Friday’s meeting with Mr Lula and the military chiefs that there was “no direct armed forces involvement” but added “if any element participated, they will have to answer as citizens.”

The relationship with the armed forces will be one of Mr Lula’s biggest immediate challenges, say analysts, who point to a significant military presence in Mr Bolsonaro’s administration.

On Wednesday, General Paiva vowed that the military “will continue to guarantee democracy” and suggested that the results of the election in which Mr Lula defeated Mr Bolsonaro should be accepted.

“When we vote, we have to respect the result of the polls,” he said in a speech, clips of which were seen on the G1 news website. AFP

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