BRASILIA (Reuters) – President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plans to take part in Brazil’s Independence Day military parade on Thursday as he seeks to end the politicization of the armed forces that gathered steam under his right-wing predecessor.
Tight security measures have been prepared to contain possible protests by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, some of who stormed government buildings a week after Lula took office in January.
More than 3,000 troops with military hardware will march past the president, cabinet ministers and other authorities on the central esplanade of the Brazilian capital where a crowd of 30,000 people is expected for the annual event.
Lula has sought to rebuild trust between his government and the military, after removing several officers from his security teams over concerns they failed to protect the executive palace from invasion and vandalism by Bolsonaro supporters on Jan. 8.
The leftist leader replaced the Army commander and has coaxed the military back into their barracks after Bolsonaro placed thousands of officers in government roles, while pushing the armed forces to publicly endorse his political views.
During last year’s bicentennial Independence Day, in the final stretch of a heated presidential campaign, Bolsonaro mixed military displays with a political rally drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters.
In a weekly address on social media on Tuesday, Lula said he was returning the holiday’s focus to the armed forces.
“What we want to do, with the participation of the army, navy and air force, is to make Sept. 7 a celebration for everyone,” he said.
Bolsonaro has never conceded his defeat by Lula and was banned from seeking elected office for eight years due to his criticism of the country’s electoral system. He faces a series of investigations, with allegations ranging from abuse of his presidential powers to embezzlement of undeclared official gifts.
Police, security and intelligence services have been mobilized to monitor for trouble by Bolsonaro supporters, but officials said they do not expect protests.
Many Bolsonaro backers on social media have called for people to avoid the day’s celebrations as a demonstration that Lula has little support, using the hashtag #fiqueemcasa, or #stayhome.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Jamie Freed)
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