Lula dismisses army chief just before his first trip abroad

Lula dismisses army chief just before his first trip abroad

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sacked army chief Julio César de Arruda two weeks after attacks on power centers in Brasilia and just before his first foreign trip to Argentina on Sunday.

Defense Minister José Múcio formalized on Saturday evening the departure of Julio César de Arruda, who had led the army on an interim basis since December 30, two days before the end of the mandate of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. He had been confirmed there at the beginning of January by the new administration of Lula.

“After the last episodes (…) of January 8, there was a breach of trust,” Múcio said at the presidential palace in Planalto.

He will be replaced by General Tomas Ribeiro Paiva, 62, military commander of the southeast since 2021, according to sources in the presidency.

General Ribeiro Paiva, who began his military career in 1975, notably participated in the Brazilian army mission in Haiti, commanded the presidential guard battalion and worked as an auxiliary to the presidency in Brasilia under the mandate of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

On Wednesday, he said in a remarked public speech that the army would continue “to guarantee democracy” and that it was necessary to “respect the results of the ballot box”.

The relationship with the armed forces is one of Lula’s biggest immediate challenges, according to analysts who point to the significant military presence in the previous administration.

Friday, Lula had met for the first time the three heads of the armies. Defense Minister José Mucio then assured that there had been no “direct involvement” of the army in the riots in Brasilia.

Lula had received the full support of the international community after the January 8 assault and ransacking of places of power in Brasilia by Bolsonarists refusing defeat and the replacement of their champion.

Sunday, Lula goes to Argentina, in accordance with the tradition which wants that the first exit of a Brazilian president is reserved for his big neighbor.

Lula will find there a loyal ally and friend, President Alberto Fernandez, but also his counterparts from a region where the left has returned to power, by participating in a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac).

– “Pink wave” –

“Brazil is back!” launched Lula on the evening of his victory on October 30 against Jair Bolsonaro, whose four years in office were marked by great international isolation.

Latin America is therefore the first stage of this normalization, before the arrival of the first European leader in Brasilia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on January 30, then a visit by Lula to American President Joe Biden, in Washington, on February 10. .

Lula’s priority is to “reconnect with Latin America, an essential region for Brazil but relegated to the background” by Mr. Bolsonaro, explains to AFP Joao Daniel Almeida, specialist in external relations at the University. pontifical of Rio.

Lula will meet with Mr. Fernandez on Monday in Buenos Aires.

Argentina is “a very important partner” of Brazil, underlined the vice-president of Lula, Geraldo Alckmin. It is the third customer of Brazilian exports, which exceeded 15 billion dollars last year.

Discussions should include trade, science, technology and defence, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said.

Lula could also meet Tuesday in Buenos Aires his Cuban counterparts Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro, with whom Brasilia has just reconnected. Mr. Bolsonaro’s Brazil was one of the fifty countries that recognized the main opponent of the socialist president, Juan Guaido, as “interim president” of Venezuela.

Lula is then due to travel to Uruguay for a meeting with centre-right president Luis Lacalle Pou.

In Buenos Aires, he will take part in the 7th summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which brings together 33 states in the region. Lula had been at the end of the last of his two terms (2003-2010) one of the founders of this organization, during the first “pink wave” on the continent.

Jair Bolsonaro had suspended Brazil’s participation in Celac, accused of “giving importance to undemocratic regimes like Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua”.

Likewise, he had not frequented Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia where the left had come to power.

Lula also expressed this week his interest in “a continental policy” for the preservation of the Amazon, a file on which he is eagerly awaited after the record deforestation of the Bolsonaro era.