President Lula sacks Brazil’s army chief after anti-government riots - GulfToday

President Lula sacks Brazil’s army chief after anti-government riots


President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks with his wife Rosangela "Janja" da Silva, during an event at the Palacio do Planalto, in Brasilia, on Saturday. AFP

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva sacked the commander of Brazil's army Saturday, two weeks after an election-denying mob loyal to his far-right predecessor ransacked the halls of power in Brasilia.

The official website of the Brazilian armed forces said Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda had been removed as head of the army. He was replaced by Gen. Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, who was head of the Southeast Military Command.

In recent weeks, Lula targeted the military with criticism after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed through government buildings and destroyed public property in an attempt to keep Bolsonaro in office. The uprising underlined the polarisation in Brazil between the left and the right.

The veteran leftist's dismissal of Julio Cesar de Arruda, confirmed to AFP by military sources, came a day before Lula was to make his first trip abroad — to Argentina — as he moves to put the South American powerhouse back on the international stage.

Arruda had only taken up the post on December 30, two days before the end of outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro's term, and was confirmed by Lula's administration in early January.

Lula held his first meeting with his military top brass on Friday. None of the participants made a statement afterward. 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.

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 review of his immediate environment.

Defence Minister Jose Mucio said following Friday's meeting with Lula and the military chiefs that there was no direct armed forces involvement.

On Wednesday, the man named on Saturday to be the new army chief, Tomas Ribeiro Paiva, until now the head of the southeastern army command, vowed that the military "will continue to guarantee democracy." And he suggested that the results of the October election in which Lula defeated Bolsonaro should be accepted.

On Sunday Lula will head to Argentina, the customary first stop for Brazilian presidents. Beyond tradition, however, the trip will also allow him to meet with a faithful ally, President Alberto Fernandez, as well as regional counterparts at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

"Brazil is back," Lula vowed on the evening of his October 30 victory against Bolsonaro, whose four years in office were marked by international isolation for Brazil.

"Everyone wants to talk to Brazil," Lula said this week in an interview with the Globo TV channel, promising to rebuild Brasilia's ties with the international community.


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