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With Brazil Ex-President’s Fate in Balance, Army Chief Weighs In

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Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil during a campaign rally in in March. He has a significant lead in polls ahead of a presidential election scheduled for October. Credit Eraldo Peres/Associated Press

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — On the eve of a fateful court ruling that could determine whether a former president of Brazil continues a comeback bid or goes to prison, the army chief made a rare incursion into politics Tuesday night, saying that the armed forces “repudiated impunity.”

The former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is considered the front-runner in Brazil’s presidential election later this year, despite his conviction on corruption charges. The country’s highest court is expected to decide on Wednesday whether a lower court can send him to prison while he appeals the conviction, which would end his campaign.

In two posts on Twitter on Tuesday night, Gen. Eduardo Villas Bôas declared that the army was “heedful of its institutional missions,” and that the military “repudiates impunity, respects the Constitution, social peace and democracy.” The messages were retweeted more than 10,000 times and liked by more than 20,000 in just three hours.

The remarks heightened tensions and sparked accusations that Brazil’s military, which has been largely silent on political debates since democracy was restored in 1985, was signaling how it wanted the country’s top court to rule on an enormously polarizing issue.

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Brazil’s army chief, Gen. Eduardo Villas Bôas, made a rare incursion into politics Tuesday night, saying that the armed forces “repudiated impunity.” Credit Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Critics viewed the comments as undue pressure, or even a veiled threat of military intervention if the Supreme Federal Tribunal were to allow Mr. da Silva to avoid imprisonment, even temporarily, and continue his bid for a third term in office.

He has a significant lead in polls ahead of the October election.

Rodrigo Janot, the former attorney general, responded on Twitter: “This definitely isn’t good. If it is what it seems, another 1964 would be unacceptable,” he said, referring to the coup that ushered in a two-decade military dictatorship in Brazil.

Source: NYT > World

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