Green outside, red inside: Brazil's army irked by communist 'watermelon' jabs

FILE PHOTO: Army Day celebrations, in Brasilia

By Gabriel Stargardter

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil's army, which is facing calls from President Jair Bolsonaro's supporters to stage a coup after his election loss, is unhappy its generals are being derided as "watermelons" - green on the outside, communist red on the inside - by his fans.

Since Bolsonaro lost the Oct. 30 vote against his leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, small but committed groups of his supporters across Brazil have camped out by army bases, begging the armed forces to overrule the election result.

In recent days, it seems some of them have lost patience with the army's reticence to intervene, accusing its leading generals of being closet communists who favor Lula.

"These are 4 communist generals who are against the people, they want a Lula government," Twitter user Eugenia Moreira da Costa wrote, with photos of Brazil's top army leaders. "They are watermelon generals, green on the outside, red on the inside."

That proved a bridge too far for the army.

In an internal Nov. 16 communique seen by Reuters, the army's communications chief said he had been instructed by the head of the force to repudiate posts "with lying and malicious allusions regarding members of the Army High Command."

The posts were a "malicious and criminal attempt to stain the personal honor of soldiers with more than forty years of service," Gen. José Ricardo Vendramin Nunes wrote, without mentioning the watermelon meme.

The posts amounted to "disinformation," he said, adding that "the Brazilian army remains cohesive and united."

For months, Bolsonaro had sought military support for his baseless accusations that the country's electronic voting system was liable to fraud. That sparked fears that Bolsonaro may not accept losing last month's election, and that the military, which ruled Brazil during a 1964-85 junta, might support him.

Ultimately, those fears were unfounded: Bolsonaro has not blocked the peaceful handover of power to Lula, and the armed forces have so far refused calls to stage a coup.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Editing by William Maclean)