Brazil’s Lula fires army commander in wake of capital uprising

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday fired the country’s army chief, General Julio Cesar de Arruda, amid concerns over threats to the country’s democracy in the wake of the Jan. 8 riots in the capital by supporters of former leader Jair Bolsonaro.

The firing of Arruda, who had been commander since Dec. 28, was reported earlier on Saturday by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo and TV network Globonews. A source said that his replacement would be General Tomas Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, army commander of the southeast.

Brazil’s army and the Ministry of Defense did not immediately comment on the matter.

Lula said this week that intelligence services failed on Jan. 8, when supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in Brasilia.

Previously, Lula said he suspected collusion by “people in the armed forces” in the insurrection, during which several thousand Bolsonaro supporters invaded and ransacked the Congress building, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court.

Arruda had attended a meeting with Lula on Friday, accompanied by the commanders of the navy, Marcos Sampaio Olsen, and air force, Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno.

Defense Minister José Múcio Monteiro told reporters after the meeting that the Jan. 8 riots were not the main discussion topic but added that any involvement of military personnel in the riots would be punished.

Lula has said recently that his government would purge hardcore Bolsonaro loyalists from the security forces. However, many demonstrators who rioted in Brasilia called for a military coup to restore Bolsonaro to power.

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