Coups and Crowing

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Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes conducted a five-year investigation into so-called “digital militias” who support former right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

As part of that probe, the judge banned 150 accounts on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter, that were associated with the militias. Elon Musk, the American billionaire-entrepreneur who owns X, has however refused to comply with the order, wrote Al Jazeera.

“We are lifting all restrictions,” Musk posted on X in early April, according to CNBC. “This judge has applied massive fines, threatened to arrest our employees and cut off access to X in Brazil. As a result, we will probably lose all revenue in Brazil and have to shut down our office there. But principles matter more than profit.”

Musk added that he would expose Moraes’ corruption.

“Coming shortly, will publish everything demanded by (Alexandre de Moraes) and how those requests violate Brazilian law,” wrote Musk. “This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil. He should resign or be impeached. Shame, shame.”

This turn of events raises important questions, including about free speech, and the power of a tech billionaire. In Brazil, they also potentially could stoke deep divisions.

The same judge, for example, has also been investigating a coup attempt that Bolsonaro’s supporters launched in the capital of Brasilia last year after current left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took the presidency from Bolsonaro in the South American country’s 2022 election.

On Jan. 8, 2023, so-called Bolsonaristas “rampaged” through the Brazilian Congress and other branches of government, trashing offices, destroying national treasures, and calling for Lula’s removal from office, explained World Politics Review. The president, however, was not in town that day. Around 70 people were injured and six were taken to hospital with serious injuries, but nobody died, CNN reported.

Today, Bolsonaro faces potential charges of insurrection. The investigation into the failed coup recently revealed, for instance, that the ex-president plotted to remain in power despite losing the popular vote, but also that his military officers threatened to arrest him, the Associated Press noted.

Bolsonaristas, meanwhile, draw parallels between their movement and the justice’s attempt to silence Musk, a darling of free-market conservatives, libertarian-leaning right-wingers, free-thinking futurists, and others worldwide, wrote the Guardian. Recently, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters have taken to the streets in Rio de Janeiro to support the entrepreneur.

Musk’s critics at the New Republic, meanwhile, contended that he was meddling in Brazilian affairs.

Regardless, amid the protests and the outrage flowing from X, Bolsonaro was recently indicted for falsifying his Covid-19 vaccination data, marking the first indictment for the embattled far-right leader, Le Monde reported. And, the French newspaper noted, more is sure to come.

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