If there is a lesson that Brazil should have already learned, it is that there is no such thing as a “decorative vice”. Of the 38 presidents in our republican history, eight took office via Palácio do Jaburu — the official residence of vice presidents —, three of them during the period of redemocratization and two through impeachments.
Until the 1988 Constitution, elections for president and vice president were parallel, that is, they did not need to be on the same ticket, not even on the same ideological side: it was possible to have a president on the left and a vice president on the right, for example. It goes without saying that it was a recipe for confusion”, says Rafael Mafei, professor at the USP Law School and author of the book “How to remove a president” (Zahar, 2021).
Before the current Constitution – which, by the way, came into force at the hands of Vice-President José Sarney, assuming the Presidency after the hospitalization and death of Tancredo Neves, in 1985 -, the power of the Vice-President was even greater, sometimes acting as president of the Senate, sometimes as president of Congress, depending on the current charter. The position was only extinct between 1937 and 1945: in the Constitution created by Getúlio Vargas during the Estado Novo, the figure of the deputy disappeared.
Today, the deputy has only two official functions: to participate in the Council of the Republic and the National Defense Council – in addition, of course, to replace the holder in case of absence or abandonment of the position. The matter is taken so seriously that the GSI (Institutional Security Office) avoids meeting the two representatives in the same place as a precaution against attacks. Not even their offices are close: the president’s is inside the Planalto Palace; the vice, in a distant annex building.
In December 2015, the letter sent by Michel Temer (MDB) to Dilma Rousseff (PT) gained the internet in the form of memes and jokes. The text, with phrases in Latin and filled with mesoclises, recorded her dissatisfaction, saying that she had lost “all political protagonism” and had spent her first term (2010 to 2014) as a “decorative deputy”.
It was in Dilma’s second term that, thanks to Temer’s political articulation, Eduardo Cunha (MDB) was elected president of the Chamber of Deputies — and would become the executioner of her impeachment. It took nine months between the sending of the fateful letter until Temer was sworn in, on August 31, 2016.
Dilma’s deputy was not the only one to put his dissatisfaction on paper (and in the media). The then vice president Itamar Franco (extinct PRN) had been at odds with Fernando Collor (extinct PRN) since the campaign. Itamar, who was without a party and at the end of his term, wanted to contest a grandiose election like the one in 1989 (the first in 21 years of dictatorship) and Collor, to take advantage of the Minas Gerais’s popularity in a large electoral college like the one in Minas. They belonged to different political spectrums: Collor came from a family of politicians aligned with the military regime (linked to Arena), while Itamar was politically born in the cradles of the PTB (and the PMDB, a party opposed to the dictatorship).
The campaign so strained the relationship that, after being elected, Collor only received Itamar two days after the announcement of his victory. The first public disagreement between the two took place in 1991, during the privatization of the steel company Usiminas. Itamar was against it and went so far as to say: “I cannot create difficulties for the president, as I am his eventual replacement, but this forces me to self-policing, self-discipline”, records Mafei’s book.
In 1992, Itamar sent an angry letter — which he also sent to the press —, complaining that he had not been consulted about the ministerial reform promoted in April of that year, the formation of the so-called “Ministry of Notables”. The following month, he would disaffiliate from the PRN, the ruling party, to, on December 29, 1992, take over as the 33rd president of Brazil.
By a trusted copilot
The importance of defining the vice presidents on the presidential slates became evident at the beginning of the 2022 campaign. “Treachery is neither in the nature nor in the character of Alckmin”, former president and candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would have said ( PT) in February, at a dinner in São Paulo to reassure his co-religionists.
Historic Tucano, Geraldo Alckmin made his entry into the PSB official in March so that he could, thus, stamp the “folders” alongside Lula as a candidate for vice-presidency. Before, it was necessary to trim the edges between PT and PSDB, both in the party executive and with the electorate.
The apex was in the second round of the 2006 elections, when Lula and Alckmin were running for president. In an exchange of insults, the PT was called a “car thief”, while the toucan was blamed for leaving “São Paulo hostage to organized crime”.
“Many people are surprised by my alliance with Alckmin,” Lula posted on Twitter on July 20. “I read in a book by Paulo Freire that we have to unite the dissenters to defeat the antagonists. And that’s what you need to know. We’re going to fix this country.”
The following day, the PT released the first advertising piece of the campaign: a recipe for squid with chayote (due to the almost insipid tone, columnist José Simão, from Folha de S.Paulo, nicknamed Alckmin “chayote popsicle”).
The objective was to help the election of Fernando Haddad as governor of São Paulo, bring financial stability to the industry and open dialogue with agribusiness entrepreneurs. The polite manner and work of the ex-governor of São Paulo during his trips through the countryside won over the party’s supporters. “I was once vice-governor of Mário Covas, in São Paulo. Vice is a co-pilot, the task is to help”, Alckmin summarized at the press conference held at Santa Casa in Belo Horizonte, on September 13.
“He’s grateful. He was sidelined by the party he helped found, he was a commentator on a TV show [“Todo Seu”, da TV Gazeta]. Lula and Haddad took him out of political ostracism and returned him to the game of power, space and prestige”, comments another source close to the former president.
The cornering concerns the friction that Alckmin had with his former political patron, former governor João Doria. The former godfather embittered 4.8% of the voting intentions and placed fourth in the election that would elect Bolsonaro (at the time in the PSL), with the explicit support of Doria.
Months ago, Lula even spoke at a dinner with businessmen in the construction sector that the choice “is less electoral than political”, and that Alckmin may even be a better deputy than José Alencar (died in 2011). “He’s not going to help me win the election. He’s going to help me govern,” she said at the time.
A general to call his own
“Bolsonaro is a man of integrity and an excellent leader, but he has a great mania for persecution. He doesn’t trust anyone, he sees conspiracy in everything, he is always suspicious. It was natural that he would want a person of extreme trust by his side”, he highlights. one of his closest ministers. It was in this scenario that the name of Walter Souza Braga Netto (PL), 65, stood out, carrying out art. 31 of the Military Statute: “Loyalty in all circumstances”.
Other politically tastier names were quoted for vice, such as Tereza Cristina (PP), former minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply who, in addition to waving to agribusiness entrepreneurs, could draw female votes. Also discarded was the name of the current vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourão (Republicans), with whom the president spent practically the entire term in a tense atmosphere. Mourão criticized on GloboNews the lack of awareness campaigns in the pandemic and even praised the decision of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) to suspend the payment of parliamentary amendments controlled by the Rapporteur-General for the Budget. Bolsonaro’s counterattack was, in an interview, comparing him to a brother-in-law who “has got in the way” but “has to put up with”.
“Despite everything, Bolsonaro is grateful. He knows that if Mourão wanted, he could be impeached,” says a source close to the presidential campaign. “He is even helping Mourão in the campaign [ao Senado, pelo Rio Grande do Sul.”
Consciente de seu papel, GBN (como o General Braga Netto é chamado nos grupos de WhatsApp e Telegram bolsonaristas) respeita a hierarquia — no caso, a política, não a de patente militar. “Não vou falar muito, porque vocês vieram aqui mais para ouvir o presidente do que eu. Vice tem que ficar quieto e não atrapalhar”, limitou-se a dizer o ex-ministro da Defesa e da Casa Civil do governo, em agosto, num comício em Juiz de Fora (MG).
“O vice é aquela pessoa que está ao seu lado nos momentos difíceis”, explicou Bolsonaro durante evento no Rio de Janeiro, em julho. “Não pode ser aquela pessoa que conspira contra você. O vice é a solução do problema. E eu escolhi, sim, um general.”
Avesso a entrevistas, Braga Netto sempre pede para que colegas e apoiadores não tirem fotos em encontros privados. Registros em redes sociais precisam ser apagados.
Apesar do jeito sisudo, pessoas que convivem com o general afirmam que ele é “bastante tranquilo” no trato e nos costumes. Braga Netto gosta de frequentar restaurantes self-service, treinar judô (é faixa preta no esporte), frequentar missas e passear com seu buldogue francês Jack (ele tinha dois cachorros da mesma raça, Jack e Daniels, mas Daniels morreu durante a pandemia).
Sua conta no Twitter só foi criada em 29 de agosto por pressão de Bolsonaro e de seus filhos Flávio e Carlos. “Agora estou oficialmente no Twitter. Sou Walter Souza Braga Netto, mineiro de Belo Horizonte, General do Exército, ex-Ministro da Defesa e da Casa Civil e candidato a Vice-Presidente ao lado do nosso Presidente Jair Bolsonaro”, disse em sua primeira publicação. E prosseguiu: “Estou pronto para auxiliar nosso Presidente a defender os interesses nacionais perante o mundo. Representei o Brasil como Observador Militar do Exército, no Timor Leste, e como Adido Militar na Polônia, nos EUA e no Canadá.”
O vice deixou de fora a função de interventor no Rio de Janeiro na crise de segurança pública em 2018, período em que chefiou os comandos da PM, da Polícia Civil, do Corpo de Bombeiros e da administração penitenciária do estado. “Falo como carioca: se não fosse por ele, a situação do Rio não teria melhorado”, afirma o senador Carlos Portinho (PL-RJ).
A opinião está longe de ser consensual. Órgãos como Anistia Internacional, Human Rights Watch e Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos, entre outros, se posicionaram contrários à sua gestão. Segundo o Observatório da Intervenção, as 711 operações realizadas nos dez meses de intervenção levaram a 1.375 mortes, decorrentes diretamente da ação policial.
A ex-vereadora Marielle Franco (PSOL-RJ) era uma das maiores críticas da medida. “Os favelados e faveladas sabem muito bem o que é ter um tanque na sua porta. [São eles] who know where the point of the rifle is going to be pointed,” she said in February 2018, a month before she was murdered.
Another controversy involving GBN was the receipt, in 2020, of R$ 926 thousand in a period of two months, according to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, with data obtained by the Transparency Portal. The amount far exceeded his gross monthly salary of R$31,000 in the Army reserve. Braga Netto has not yet commented on the subject.
A friend of Bolsonaro (both were students at the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras and graduated a year apart, in the late 1970s), the general was the first to let a president participate in a meeting of the High Commissioner of the Army. He also shares the president’s views on the conservative agenda.
“Braga Netto likes to draw plans and outline strategies”, says an active general. “He always shows spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations to better illustrate his thoughts.” It is not yet clear, however, whether GBN will even have space in a possible second term of Bolsonaro or whether it will remain, like so many other vices, exiled in the annex building.