Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) ordered former President Jair Bolsonaro to hand over his passport – effectively trapping him in the country – as part of a broad probe into an alleged “coup” plot following Bolsonaro’s defeat in the 2022 presidential election.
The measure is part of a broad operation known as Operação Tempus Veritatis (“Operation Time of Truth”). Police reportedly seized Bolsonaro’s passport from his office located at the headquarters of the Liberal Party (PL) in Brasília on Thursday noon local time.
The court order demanding Bolsonaro hand over his passport was issued by (STF) Minister and “anti-fake news crusader” Alexandre de Moraes. The operation claims to dismantle a purported “criminal organization” acting to keep Bolsonaro in power through a coup following his defeat in the October 2022 election.
According to de Moraes’ court order, Bolsonaro and his allies, after the results of 2022’s election, allegedly prepared a “coup” through a purported decree that contained provisions for the arrest of de Moraes alongside other STF members and other local authorities, as well as the immediate call for a new election.
The court order also reportedly stated that Bolsonaro and his allies were actively monitoring de Moraes himself and that Bolsonaro personally decided to arrest the STF minister before calling for new elections.
The probe’s large operation saw officials from the Brazilian Federal Police (PF) conduct 33 search and seizure warrants on Thursday morning, as well as four preventive arrest warrants and 48 different precautionary measures.
The list of targets, led by Bolsonaro, includes some of his former ministers and military officials, as well as former advisers during his presidency. The precautionary measures reportedly include the prohibition of those targeted from maintaining contact with one another, a ban on leaving Brazil, and the suspension of the exercise of public functions.
Valdemar Costa Neto, the head of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party (PL) — and who was not among the four with an arrest warrant to their names — was nevertheless arrested for the alleged illegal possession of a firearm, an unrelated charge.
Two of Bolsonaro’s aides, Filipe Martins and Army colonel Marcelo Câmara, were reportedly arrested during Thursday’s operation.
Brazil’s Federal Police accused Costa Neto on Thursday of using the Liberal Party to finance the purported coup attempt and invalidate the victory of radical leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was elected for a third term in 2022 after narrowly defeating Bolsonaro by less than two percentage points.
According to de Moraes’ court order, the party was used to finance a “support structure for the narratives that alleged fraud in the electronic ballot boxes, to legitimize the demonstrations that took place in front of the military installations.”
The court order further claimed that the lawsuit filed by PL in November 2022 to challenge the election’s results was part of the purported coup strategy. At the time, the Liberal Party argued that there were irregularities in some of the electronic voting machines used in the election that could have affected the final results. De Moraes rejected the lawsuit and imposed a “bad faith litigation” fine of 22.9 million Brazilian reais ($4.27 million) against the Liberal Party.
Lula declared in a radio interview on Thursday that the alleged coup plot is a “concrete fact” and that it would not have happened without Bolsonaro’s participation.
“The citizen who was in the government [Bolsonaro] wasn’t prepared to win, wasn’t prepared to lose, wasn’t prepared to leave. So much so that he didn’t even have the courage to hand me the sash, he cried and left for the U.S. because he must have taken part in building this coup attempt. So let’s wait for the investigations,” Lula said.
The Brazilian president claimed to be a defender of the presumption of innocence with regards to Bolsonaro, something he claimed to lack during his multiple convictions on corruption charges — all of which were overturned by the STF on procedural grounds in 2021, allowing him to run for president again in 2022.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.