Former President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil oversaw a broad conspiracy to hold on to power regardless of the results of the 2022 election, including personally editing a proposed order to arrest a Supreme Court justice and call new elections after he lost, according to new accusations by Brazilian federal police unveiled on Thursday.
Mr. Bolsonaro and dozens of top aides, ministers and military leaders coordinated to undermine the Brazilian public’s faith in the election and set the stage for a potential coup, the federal police said.
Their efforts included spreading information about voter fraud, drafting legal arguments for new elections, recruiting military personnel to support a coup, surveilling judges and encouraging and guiding protesters who eventually raided government buildings, police said.
The explosive allegations were made in a 134-page court order that authorized a sweeping federal police operation on Thursday that targeted Mr. Bolsonaro and about two dozen of his political allies. The operation involved search warrants and the arrests of four people, including two Army officers and two of Mr. Bolsonaro’s former top aides.
Mr. Bolsonaro was ordered to hand over his passport, to remain in the country, and to have no contact with any other people under investigation.
Mr. Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he was the innocent victim of a politically motivated operation.
“I left the government more than a year ago and I continue to suffer relentless persecution,” the former president told Folha de São Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. “Forget about me. There is already someone else running the country.”
For more than a year ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, Mr. Bolsonaro openly sowed doubts about the security of his nation’s election systems and warned that if he lost it would be the result of fraud.
When he, in fact, lost to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Mr. Bolsonaro declined to unequivocally concede and his supporters staged monthslong protests that culminated in a January 2023 riot at Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices.
Mr. Bolsonaro has already been ruled ineligible to run for office until 2030 over his attempts to undermine the voting systems. But the accusations unveiled on Thursday show that authorities believe the former president and his allies had carried out a far more organized plan to subvert Brazil’s young democracy.
Thursday’s operation also targeted Brazil’s former defense secretary, former intelligence chief, former justice minister and former head of the Navy, Mr. Bolsonaro’s running mate and the head of his political party.
This is a developing story.
Paulo Motoryn contributed reporting from Brasília and Julia Vargas Jones from New York.