Korybko To Sputnik Brasil: The US Played A Decisive Role In The January 8th Incident
Here’s the full English version of the interview that I recently gave to Sputnik Brasil, excerpts of which were originally published in Portuguese on 11 January under the title “EUA tiveram papel decisivo na invasão de prédios públicos em Brasília, afirma Korybko”.
1. In your article, you suggest that the Brazilian capital was suspiciously unguarded during Sunday’s protests. Today, the newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported that the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) alerted the Lula government that an attack was imminent. While it is a known fact that the police of the Federal District did not stop the protesters - allegedly due to ideological affinity - it is not clear why the Lula government did not respond to the imminent threat. Why do you think the Brazilian government chose to remain passive? Do you think the protests can be used as a useful pretext to a crackdown on the extreme right?
It's clear that the capital wasn’t “innocently” undefended. Bolsonaro’s supporters were camping out there for months and some of them were already signaling their intent to replicate the January 6th (J6) scenario, which the American and Brazilian Mainstream Media (MSM) repeatedly warned about. That being the case, it’s obvious that some elements of Brazil’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) – which in the national historical context is disproportionately influenced by the military wing – at the very least “passively facilitated” the events that unfolded on Sunday through their criminal negligence in failing to properly defend the capital
Regarding the latest report that the Lula Administration was alerted about an imminent attack, neither he himself nor his team should be regarded as directly being responsible for this negligence, at least at this time. The work flow is unclear with respect to who might have reacted to this alert (if they didn’t ignore it that is), what they tasked the appropriate agencies to do, who might have received such orders, and so on. For the time being, it appears as though the Lula Administration was functionally powerless in this scenario since some elements of the “deep state” wanted everything to play out as it did. That likely being the case, he and his team probably couldn’t have prevented it even if they tried.
2. 24 hours after the incident, over 1,2 thousand Bolsonaro supporters are already under police custody. Despite the sensitivity of arresting political protesters, the group’s agenda seems to be clearly undemocratic. Protesters defend a military dictatorship and measures such as the elimination of the rights of religious minorities. Do you think a crackdown is justified if democracy is at stake?
The law should always be enforced without exception and shouldn’t ever be politicized. It doesn’t matter if someone disagrees with the causes that another publicly espouses since the latter shouldn’t be punished for exercising their constitutionally enshrined freedom of speech so long as that action doesn’t violate the law. If enough people feel uncomfortable with those aforesaid causes, then they need to work through the legal process to prohibit public expressions thereof. Until that happens, nobody should be arrested on the sole basis that their opinions offended someone else.
That said, the official basis upon which those 1,2 thousand supporters were detained wasn’t them publicly expressing their freedom of speech but the actions that they allegedly carried out. If they broke the law, then they need to be punished, but the legal process will ultimately determine whether they’re guilty or not. Storming and vandalizing public property are extreme actions that challenge the writ of the state. The hyper-partisan post-electoral context in which they occurred also suggests an intent to overturn last year’s election, which thus makes this an attempted regime change.
3. How do we explain the fact that not only Bolsonaro, but also the Secretary of Defense of the Brazilian Federal district were both in the US during this event?
Bolsonaro didn’t want to participate in Brazil’s traditional presidential ceremony and thus left for Florida, where his close friend former US President Donald Trump coincidentally lives, before Lula returned to office. There’s speculation that he did so to evade what his supporters speculated could have been his successor’s politicization of the legal process to punish him on whatever pretext (e.g. his COVID-19 policy, deforestation of the Amazon, etc.) in order to send a message to domestic right-wing forces. His presence in the US, however, shouldn’t be interpreted as him colluding with his host’s government to carry out Sunday’s incident.
As for Anderson Torres’ presence in that same state, the capital’s head of public security claimed that he was on vacation though many folks speculate that he was either clandestinely coordinating Sunday’s incident with Bolsonaro and/or the US Government. Whatever he was really doing, there’s no doubt that he was at the very least criminally negligent in his responsibilities and that him being outside of Brazil while events unfolded reduced his risk of being brought to justice if charges are ultimately filed against him. With this observation in mind, he could have potentially been part of Sunday’s plot and left Brazil on the pretext of a vacation before everything happened just in case the regime change failed.
4. In your text, you mention that Brazil and the US share the interest to combat internal right-wing opposition. How can this cooperation be done in practice? Do you think the US would in fact extradite Bolsonaro to Brazil?
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) assessed in early 2021 that “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs) present the most lethal DVE threats” to the US. Those forces are associated with right-wing elements, which thus confirms how serious of a threat that country’s “deep state” regards them as being. Their report was published in the aftermath of J6, leading some to speculate that it’s a politicized exaggeration intended to establish the pretext for a crackdown against Trump’s supporters. Regardless of whether one agrees with those folks’ train of thought, some right-wing forces do indeed constitute a threat, as do some left-wing ones too.
The Lula Administration’s reaction to Sunday’s incident, which the newly re-elected leader described as a series of “terrorist acts” while speaking alongside the heads of Congress and the Supreme Court, suggests that they also share a similar assessment of the threat posed by some right-wing elements as the US’ DNI does. While it’s presently unclear whether those domestic forces coordinated their actions with any foreign counterparts, let alone with presently US-based Bolsonaro, there’s no denying that some right-wing elements do have international ties just like their left-wing counterparts do. As for the former leader’s fate, a lot will depend on whether the Lula Administration presses charges against him.
In the event that they do, which can’t be ruled out considering how serious of a national security threat they regard Sunday’s incident as being, then the US will be in a bind. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a press conference on Monday that there would be “legal issues and precedent issues” involved with that scenario, but he also said that “if we did receive such requests, we’d treat them the way we always do: We’d treat them seriously.” On the one hand, handing Bolsonaro over to Lula on a silver platter would demonstrate both countries’ will to jointly fight so-called “right-wing terrorism”, but on the other, it would reduce trust in the US by current and future right-wing Latin American leaders.
5. Trump’s strategist Steve Bannon has posted messages in the social network Gettr supporting the protesters in Brasilia. “Lula stole the election... and Brazilians know it”, he wrote on Sunday. Is it fair to say that the Trumpist and Bolsonarist movements share the same tactics, and ultimately the same financing sources?
Social media posts like Bannon’s in and of themselves aren’t smoking guns confirming the existence of a shadowy regime change plot, but about him personally, it’s widely known that he sympathizes with Bolsonaro and their political networks are allegedly connected. For that reason, there are grounds to suspect that they might also have financial ties, which could at the very least be between some of their members without the authorization or knowledge of their movements’ leaders. This should be investigated after Sunday’s incident, though the hyper-partisan post-electoral context in Brazil and the Biden Administration’s domestic ideological alignment with its counterparts challenge their impartiality.
Both have self-serving reasons to concoct and/or exaggerate evidence allegedly proving that Bannon’s network – and by indirect extension Trump’s – financially contributed to what just happened in Brasilia, if not outright helped coordinate it or at the very least was aware in advance of what was about to unfold but didn’t inform either country’s authorities about these supposedly preplanned illegal acts. The Biden and Lula Administrations could exploit the aforementioned pretext to crack down on their respective right-wing oppositions, but to be absolutely clear, anyone in either country who’s proven by the courts in a truly impartial process to have broken the law deserves to be punished.
6.Brazilian judge Alexandre de Moraes has demanded that social media like Facebook, Twitter and Tik-Tok remove content that encourage coup acts and share data that might lead to the identification of protesters. Do you think such measures are effective in silencing the right-wing opposition? Is this the same method used in the US to stifle Trump’s political influence?
The New York Times (NYC), which is among the West’s leading MSM outlets, was previously critical of the unprecedented censorship powers that Moraes had obtained. They expressed this view in their articles published in September and October titled “To Defend Democracy, Is Brazil’s Top Court Going Too Far?” and “To Fight Lies, Brazil Gives One Man Power Over Online Speech” respectively. It therefore isn’t “fringe” for anyone to share similar sentiments, though they should also be reminded that Moraes obtained these unprecedented powers through legal means. Whether for right or for wrong, it’s therefore within his writ to censor social media and demand that it share data.
Therein lies the crux of the debate, however, since some suspect that he’s selectively exercising these powers to silence the right-wing opposition in cases where the targeted individuals aren’t truly guilty of any crimes while turning a blind eye to left-wing forces that critics claim have actually broken the law. If these alleged double standards are indeed true, then it would mean that Moraes is politicizing his position similar in spirit to how the recently released Twitter Files prove that the US’ security services politicized their own to silence their country’s right-wing opposition. For the time being and considering the NYT’s earlier criticism of him, there are credible reasons to be suspicious of Moraes’ intentions.
7. Your text suggests that the US and Brazil might be colluding to crack down on the extreme right, in order to consolidate Biden’s and Lula’s government, is that correct? How can we line up this alleged Lula-US alliance with the fact that the Brazilian leader was imprisoned during an operation masterminded by the US, as Lula himself is fully aware? How can two enemies become so close?
Yes, my analysis doesn’t just suggest that collusion, but explicitly states that it’s likely the case. The Biden and Lula Administrations have shared political interests in cracking down on their respective right-wing oppositions, though that doesn’t mean that either of those leaders is aware of everything that their country’s “deep state” is doing. Having clarified that, what compellingly appears to have happened on Sunday is that elements within the military and intelligence wings of Brazil’s permanent bureaucracy colluded with their US peers to replicate the J6 scenario in order to concoct their own doomed-to-fail faux Color Revolution plot that could subsequently serve as the pretext for consolidating Lula’s power.
What’s so curious about this is that those aforementioned forces are considered to be very sympathetic to the right-wing in general and to Bolsonaro in particular, yet there’s also no denying that while some elements within them at the very least passively facilitated Sunday’s incident by suspiciously leaving the capital undefended despite prior warnings of a J6-like scenario, these institutions in general also ultimately succeeded in restoring law and order at the end of the day. If the Brazilian military and intelligence services truly wanted to overthrow Lula, then they could have orchestrated this sequence of events late last year to prevent his return to office or even outright rigged the election for Bolsonaro.
They didn’t do either of those, however, which thus casts doubt on the speculation that one or both of these institutions is/are against Lula and in support of Bolsonaro (whether previously retaining power and/or returning to it as a result of Sunday’s incident). Some elements within them don’t support the incumbent, but they’re not powerful enough to remove him as proven by their failure to do so this weekend in the aftermath of what just happened, though it’s theoretically possible that a military coup or a post-modern one like that which unfolded throughout the course of Operation Car Wash can still occur or at least be threatened as a Damocles’ sword for limiting Lula’s freedom to formulate policy.
Considering the indisputable outcome of the military and intelligence services complying with Lula’s demand to restore order in the capital after some of Bolsonaro’s supporters seized its three most politically important government buildings, it can therefore be concluded that their leaders acknowledge his legal authority as the commander-in-chief. The US does so as well since President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Sullivan all publicly expressed their support for him on Sunday, which throws even more cold water on the speculation that the US supposedly wanted to overthrow him that day through a replication of the J6 scenario.
The reality is that they enthusiastically back him for ideological reasons related to their administrations’ shared socio-cultural policies at home, which can be described as liberal in comparison to Bolsonaro’s conservative ones. The US earlier orchestrated the post-modern coup that overthrew his successor Dilma Rousseff and ultimately resulted in Lula’s imprisonment, but the “dark horse” who later replaced her proved to be more politically independent than they expected. Instead of being a complete US puppet, Bolsonaro defied Sullivan’s reported quid pro quo in summer 2021 to ban Huawei in exchange for making Brazil an official NATO partner as well as Washington’s demands last year to sanction Russia.
These decisions would be unacceptable to any US administration, but the Biden one was especially repulsed by his conservative socio-cultural policies since they directly contradicted its own liberal vision. By contrast, Lula’s domestic outlook in this respect largely aligns with the incumbent American administration’s, especially regarding their shared perception of right-wing forces as serious security threats. The three-time leader himself has also moderated what observers previously regarded as his skepticism of the US, to put it mildly, especially after being imprisoned in the aftermath of its post-modern coup against his successor. This is proven by him meeting with Sullivan last month.
He didn’t have to do so since that official isn’t his counterpart but still went ahead with the meeting anyhow to signal his newfound “pragmatism” (for lack of a better description) for whatever his reason may have been. In response to those of his supporters who claim that he “didn’t have a choice” or was “playing chess”, they should be reminded that former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly refused to meet with the CIA chief during the latter’s trip to Islamabad in summer 2021 according to Axios. He was later overthrown through a US-orchestrated but superficially democratic post-modern coup, but his example still proves that Lula did indeed have a choice when it came to meeting Sullivan.
From this, observers can confidently conclude that Lula isn’t “anti-American” like some consider him whether rightly or wrongly to be, but aspires to pragmatically cooperate with it in pursuit of shared interests. Recalling the White House’s official readout of Sullivan’s trip, he “met with Secretary for Strategic Affairs Admiral Flávio Rocha to express appreciation for the progress in the U.S.-Brazil relationship and reinforce the long-term, strategic nature of the U.S.-Brazil partnership.” Lula endorsed the explicit purpose of his visit by later meeting with him despite not having to as was argued above, thus confirming his newfound approach to the US in spite of their well-known complicated history.
The strategic interests that connect their countries are enduring and transcend administrations, with these primarily being military and trade ties. The Biden and Lula Administrations in particular are also aligned with respect to climate change, COVID-19, the perception of right-wing forces as serious national security threats, and socio-cultural issues like homosexuality, et al., which wasn’t the case with the Bolsonaro one. Nevertheless, they still differ on their views towards the global systemic transition, which the Biden Administration wants to guide in the direction of restoring the US’ declining unipolar hegemony while the Lula one wants it to continue moving towards multipolarity.
In this sense, the incumbent Brazilian leader has a similar outlook as his predecessor did, which suggests that their country’s “deep state” mostly remained multipolar in the grand strategic sense despite some of its elements’ affinity with the US (both generally speaking and in terms of ideological support for various administrations like Trump’s or Biden’s). After all, if its permanent bureaucracy’s powerful military wing didn’t truly embrace this worldview, then they could have decisively pivoted towards the US during Bolsonaro’s tenure by breaking with BRICS, banning Huawei, and sanctioning Russia, yet that didn’t happen. This should prompt deep reflection from Brazilians regardless of their political views.
Looking forward, it’s expected that Lula will attempt to multi-align between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the jointly BRICS- & SCO-led Global South of which Brazil is a part by following the lead pioneered by India over the past year. Unlike that South Asian state, however, Brazil has comparatively less strategic autonomy in the New Cold War due to how deeply embedded the US’ “agents of influence” are within its “deep state”. This will in turn hamstring the effectiveness of Lula’s multipolar foreign policy vision, especially since those aforesaid forces can be weaponized at will by the US to attempt a military or post-modern coup against him if he “gets out of line” once again like last time.
The only realistic way to reduce that Hybrid War scenario is for him to ensure that those “agents of influence” that colluded with the US to carry out Sunday’s incident are brought to justice or at least politically neutralized. That’ll be immensely difficult for him to do, however, considering how powerful the military wing of his permanent bureaucracy is as well as the irredeemable corruptness of the Brazilian courts. That being the case, his third term leaves him with much less flexibility in terms of foreign policy than his prior two, which should in turn temper his supporters’ high expectations that he’ll achieve much of tangible substance on that front.
Excerpts from the interview were originally published in Portuguese at Sputnik Brasil on 11 January under the title “EUA tiveram papel decisivo na invasão de prédios públicos em Brasília, afirma Korybko”.