The threats are swirling around the president: Deaths from the virus in Brazil each day are now the highest in the world. Investors are fleeing the country. The president, his sons and his allies are under investigation. His election could even be overturned.
The crisis has grown so intense that some of the most powerful military figures in Brazil are warning of instability — sending shudders that they could take over and dismantle Latin America’s largest democracy.
But far from denouncing the idea, President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle seems to be clamoring for the military to step into the fray. In fact, one of the president’s sons, a congressman who has praised the country’s former military dictatorship, said a similar institutional break was inevitable.
“It’s no longer an opinion about if, but when this will happen,” the president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, recently told a prominent Brazilian blogger, warning of what he called a looming “rupture” in Brazil’s democratic system.
The standoff traces an ominous arc for Brazil, a country that shook off military rule in the 1980s and built a thriving democracy in its wake. Within two decades, Brazil had come to represent the energy and promise of the developing world, with a booming economy and the right to host the World Cup and the Olympics.
Since then, its economy has faltered, corruption scandals have toppled or ensnared many of its leaders and an impeachment battle ousted its powerful leftist government.
Mr. Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, stepped into this tumult, celebrating the country’s military past and promising to restore order. But he has come under blistering criticism for downplaying the virus, sabotaging isolation measures and cavalierly presiding over one of the highest death tolls in the world, saying, “We are sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny.”
He, his family and his supporters are also being pursued on allegations like abuse of power, corruption and illegally spreading misinformation. Yet nearly half of his cabinet is made up of military figures, and now, critics contend, he is relying on the threat of military intervention to ward off challenges to his presidency.