Brazil’s Bolsonaro Plotted Coup After Election Defeat, Congressional Probe Finds

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(Bloomberg) -- Former Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro should face criminal charges for plotting a coup d’etat in response to his 2022 election defeat, the lawmaker leading a congressional probe into Jan. 8 riots that ransacked the capital said in an official report.

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Senator Eliziane Gama, the investigation’s rapporteur, also recommended on Tuesday Bolsonaro’s indictment on three other charges related to the insurrection attempt in Brasilia, during which thousands of the right-wing leader’s supporters stormed major government buildings in a bid to undermine President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s election victory.

Gama’s report is preliminary. Members of the committee, which is made up of lawmakers from both the lower house of congress and the Senate, are scheduled to vote on whether to approve its findings on Wednesday. While the committee can recommend charges, Brazilian police will ultimately decide whether to pursue indictments.

The report asserts that Bolsonaro was the “author” of the insurrection attempt, and that top members of his government and senior military officers played a role in the effort to overturn the election result.

It recommends charges against 61 people in total, including General Walter Braga Netto — Bolsonaro’s vice presidential candidate, former chief of staff and minister of defense — and multiple other military officers and members of his cabinet. It also recommends indictments of the former heads of Brazil’s Army and Navy.

“The initial plan — to take power from within — failed,” she wrote. “He tried to annul the election, but it didn’t work. He tried to order intervention in the top electoral court but he had no support. He stimulated social chaos so that he could declare a state of siege, but that didn’t work either.”

Spokespersons for Bolsonaro and Braga Netto did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The insurrection, the most direct attack on Brazil’s democratic institutions since a 1964 military coup led to a two-decade dictatorship, followed a bitterly-fought election during which Bolsonaro repeatedly spread debunked claims about voter fraud.

Read More: Bolsonaro to Be Banned From Public Office in Brazil for Eight Years

Bolsonaro never formally conceded his defeat, and left Brazil days before Lula’s Jan. 1 inauguration. He remained in the US for three months, and has used his absence from Brazil to assert that he bears no responsibility for the riots.

Brazil’s electoral court in June barred Bolsonaro from seeking or holding political office for eight years over his claims that the country’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to manipulation during a meeting with foreign ambassadors.

Read More: Bolsonaro’s Mounting Legal Troubles Raise Prospect of His Arrest

The former right-wing president is currently facing a second trial in the electoral court over allegations that he abused his power during last year’s campaign. Mounting legal troubles — many of them unrelated to the insurrection attempt or the election — have also raised the prospect of his arrest.

Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing in each of the investigations he is facing.

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