Brazil's army chief fired in aftermath of capital riots

In recent weeks, Lula targeted the military with criticism after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed through government buildings. Credit: AP

Brazilian president Lula da Silva has fired the country’s army chief just days after he said some military members allowed the January 8 uprising in the capital by far-right protesters.

The official website of the Brazilian armed forces said General Julio Cesar de Arruda had been removed as head of the army.

He was replaced by General Tomás Miguel Ribeiro Paiva, who was head of the Southeast Military Command.

President Lula, who did not comment publicly on the firing, met with Defence Minister Jose Mucio, chief of staff Rui Costa and the new army commander in Brasilia at the end of the day.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, Mr Mucio said the January 8 riots had caused “a fracture in the level of trust” in the army's top levels and the government decided a change was needed.

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 him in office.

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The uprising underlined the polarisation in Brazil between the left and the right.

Lula said several times in public that there were definitely people in the army who allowed the rioting to occur, though he never cited Mr Arruda.

During a breakfast with the press, Lula said earlier this week that “a lot of people from the military police and the armed forces were complicit” and had allowed protesters to enter the buildings with open doors.

In another interview, the president said that “all the military involved in the coup attempt will be punished, no matter the rank.”

The comments were followed by Lula scheduling several meetings with the defence minister and the armed forces’ commanders.

Mr Mucio denied they had mentioned the January 8 rioting, but he said relations between the military and the government needed adjustment.

On the eve of Mr Arruda’s firing, a video of a Paiva speech earlier in the week was released in which he said the election results should be respected in order to guarantee democracy.

In a video posted on social media from inside the presidential palace on the day of the attack, a colonel is seen trying to stop police from arresting Bolsonaro’s supporters who had invaded the building.

He asks for patience from the military police, which report to the federal district's government.

More than a thousand people were arrested on the day of the riot and the morning after the disturbance, which bore strong similarities to the January 6 riot at the US Congress by mobs who wanted to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election loss in 2021.

A Brazilian Supreme Court justice earlier this month authorised adding Bolsonaro in its investigation into who incited the rioting in Brasilia as part of a broader crackdown to hold responsible parties to account.