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A former president in Brazil is accused of trying to overturn his election defeat

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We now have the story of a former president who made false claims of a stolen election.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

No, we're not talking about Donald Trump, but he was friends with him. Ex Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is facing mounting evidence that points to him participating in efforts to overturn the results of an election that ultimately unseated him. Yesterday, federal police showed up at his residence and forced him to hand over his passport.

INSKEEP: NPR South America correspondent Carrie Kahn is in Rio de Janeiro. Hi there, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What is the new evidence?

KAHN: Well, first, Bolsonaro was not arrested yesterday. Several of his close aides were. And the federal police then unveiled its case of Bolsonaro's alleged participation in an attempted coup in this 130-page detailed documents which has a lot of stunning evidence, Steve - much that we have not heard before. The investigation names dozens of people who worked with Bolsonaro, allegedly well before he lost his reelection bid back in 2022. They include military personnel, his former defense minister, his former justice minister and a national security adviser. And the level at which Bolsonaro orchestrated much of - police says was a vast conspiracy to overturn the election results is new, too. At one point, police say Bolsonaro edited a document that outlined how the coup would unfold, including which leaders in the government would be arrested and who would not. And that edit included the arrest of a justice of the Supreme Court.

INSKEEP: Wow. Wow. So these things didn't necessarily happen, but he's editing a document that is the plan. Can you now fit this into the context of what we already knew about his failed effort to overturn his defeat in 2022?

KAHN: Sure. He claimed it was voter fraud and that Brazil's all-electronic voter system was defective. His supporters spent months camping out in front of military barracks, hoping the army would intervene and overturn the results of the election. When that didn't happen, the supporters ransacked the capital on January 8 of last year. Bolsonaro has denied he had anything to do with that attack.

Unlike Trump, who was - the two were close allies when they were both in office. Bolsonaro has already been barred from running for office until 2030 by electoral authorities. And like Trump, Bolsonaro is also facing many more cases that could land him in jail.

INSKEEP: How is he responding to this latest police raid that grabs his passport?

KAHN: Bolsonaro, as always, denied any wrongdoing and says he's being politically persecuted. The current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who Bolsonaro lost to, also spoke out. He said he hopes the investigation against Bolsonaro is professional and unbiased. But he did add he didn't think the coup attempt could have happened without Bolsonaro.

I want to play you a bit of a conversation I had with Brazilian political scientist Guilherme Casaroes. It was interesting. He was hopeful, despite learning how the former right-wing leader had tried to undermine Brazil's democratic consensus. And, you know, that is quite serious in this country with a history of military dictatorships.

GUILHERME CASAROES: Even though there were very powerful people - people in office, in power - plotting against democracy, somehow democratic institutions have worked and have been able to save democracy from a complete meltdown.

KAHN: He says Brazilians should celebrate that.

INSKEEP: OK. Where's the investigation go next?

KAHN: Well, there's a lot of evidence to go over from yesterday's police action and possibly new plea agreements from aides of Bolsonaro that were arrested yesterday. And all of that could prove very problematic for Bolsonaro.

INSKEEP: OK. NPR's Carrie Kahn, thanks so much.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.