General to head Brazilian spy agency in Bolsonaro’s military-dominated cabinet

Augusto HelenoA retired general, who rose through the military’s ranks during Brazil’s 20-year dictatorship, will head the country’s intelligence agency as one of several military men in the new cabinet of President Jair Bolsonaro. Augusto Heleno, 71, was sworn in on Tuesday as head of the Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which advises the president on security policy and oversees Brazil’s intelligence and counterterrorism services. Heleno is one of four retired generals who are included in Bolsonaro’s 22-member cabinet. The latter also includes an admiral, an Army lieutenant, an Army captain, and a former professor at the Brazilian Army Staff College. Bolsonaro himself is a former Army captain, who served 27 years as a member of Congress before winning last October’s elections and becoming Brazil’s 38th president.

The 2014-2016 economic recession, the worst in Brazil’s history, was instrumental in helping propel Bolsonaro to the presidency, as was the so-called “car wash” scandal, known in Portuguese as Lava Jato. The term refers to a money-laundering probe that began in 2014, following allegations of illicit financial practices by a number of private import-export companies in Brazil. The Lava Jato probe led to the exposure of large-scale corruption, nepotism and bribing practices at the core of Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras. As of this year, the ongoing investigation into Lava Jato has implicated nearly 200 people, many of them well-known politicians. Among them is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s leftist former president, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering.

During his inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, Bolsonaro pledged to “rid Brazil of socialism” and said that the country’s flag “would never turn red”. In previous speeches, some of them in Congress, Bolsonaro has expressed support for the military junta that ruled the country between 1964 and 1985. It is unsurprising, then, that nearly half his newly installed cabinet consists of members of the military with favorable views on the dictatorship. Bolsonaro’s choice for vice president, Hamilton Mourão, sparked controversy in recent weeks by saying that the military could suspend the Brazilian constitution if lawlessness and anarchy became endemic. In addition, several members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet have dismissed the phenomenon of global warming as a conspiracy and a few have called for a “holy Christian alliance” between Brazil, the United States and Russia.

Heleno, the new head of the GSI, served as a military attaché at the embassy of Brazil in Paris, before joining the country’s diplomatic mission in Brussels. His first post following his retirement was as commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Like Bolsanaro, Heleno has also expressed support for Brazil’s 20-year military junta. In 2011, he said that the country’s Armed Forces had “defended public order” and “prevented the Cubanization” of Brazil during the Cold War. In his first public address as GSI director on Tuesday, Heleno said that the intelligence functions of the GSI would be “rescued” from the “meltdown” that he claimed they had experienced under the previous government. He also accused Bolsonaro’s immediate predecessor, President Dilma Rousseff, of governing as a leader who “did not believe in the intelligence services”. Rousseff, a member of Loula’s Worker’s Party, was a Marxist militant who was captured, tortured and jailed from 1970 to 1972 by the military government.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 January 2019 | Permalink

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