Military Politics

Far-right Bolsonaro’s campaign boosts military presence

Meet the army officers who are helping Brazilian far-right candidate design a platform based on ultra neoliberal ideas

Brasília |
Augusto Heleno: Government platform “is nothing but a protocol of intentions”
Augusto Heleno: Government platform “is nothing but a protocol of intentions” - Marcelo Casall Jr/Agência Brasil

Brazilian army officers have been playing an increasing role in the conversations about far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s platform. Three generals are in charge of his economic plan, especially regarding infrastructure projects: Oswaldo Ferreira, Augusto Heleno, and Aléssio Ribeiro Souto.


Having the three military men engaged in Bolsonaro’s program means they share the same views as his most important economic adviser, Paulo Guedes. The ultra neoliberal guru is being investigated by Brazilian authorities over accusations of fraud in pension fund investments – he allegedly mismanaged R$1 billion (approximately US$268.5 million) –, while also calling the shots in all important matters of the program, standing for controversial measures, such as reintroducing a financial transactions tax called CPMF and setting a single 20-percent income tax rate, reducing taxes on the wealth and significantly increasing them on the poor.

The military group is working in Brasília, while Guedes operates in Rio de Janeiro. 

All three generals draw from one big influence in common: Golbery do Couto e Silva. Their research papers produced at the Brazilian Army Command and General Staff School show how their views about geopolitics have been influenced by the creator of the national security doctrine, which is based on the idea of a “domestic enemy” that has to be eliminated.

Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira

Bolsonaro’s first option for a running mate, he ultimately did not run for vice president because his party, the Progressive Republican Party (PRP) did not formally enter into an alliance with the presidential candidate’s Social Liberal Party (PSL). He has commanded Brazilian troops in Haiti and also wields major influence in the candidate’s public security plan, standing for topics such as reviewing the age of criminal responsibility in the country. But the general himself has played down the role of the government platform, arguing it is “nothing but a protocol of intentions.” “It does not make sense while you don’t have an appointed minister. The programs will really be created in the two months between the election results are out [on Oct. 28] and the inauguration, in January,” he once said in an interview.

Oswaldo Ferreira

Ferreira is appointed as Bolsonaro’s probable minister of Transport and stands out as the primary military officer when it comes to infrastructure projects. He advocates for relaxing environmental licensing, in consonance with the government platform, stands for eliminating the Ministry of Environment and moving its operations to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has been historically ruled by the farm lobby. He once stated that, back in his day, “there were no public prosecutor’s offices or environmental protection agency to bust our balls,” referring to the construction of roads during the military dictatorship.

Aléssio Ribeiro Souto

He studied technology in Brazil at the military academy and ran the Army Technology Center between 2006 and 2009. When it comes to education policies, he says teachers’ pay is not a priority: “There are several aspects regarding the appreciation of teachers. The fifth or sixth is the wage issue,” he once said. Souto argues that the ousting of João Goulart was not a military coup and that “books that don’t tell the truth about the 1964 regime have to be eliminated.”

Edited by: Tayguara Ribeiro