St. Paul – “You always try to clip my wings”. That was the last sentence Roberta Brasil, 56, said she heard from her daughter, student Roberta Jérsyka Oliveira, before she was arrested for participating in the Jan. 8 coup, which sparked the invasion and looting of the headquarters of the Three Powers.
Her mother begged her not to travel from São Paulo to Brasilia that weekend. Faced with what she considered a challenge, she blocked her daughter’s social media, so as not to see the posts that would have been made in the large demonstration called by the Bolsonarists against the victory of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT).
“I said: ‘My daughter, don’t go.’ I am a military widow, her father was in the military. We know the army is resisting. If they haven’t done anything so far, they won’t do it again,” said Roberta Brasil a metropolisby telephone, on Thursday afternoon (19/01).
The mother awaits the decision of Minister Alexandre de Moraes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), on the fate of her daughter, who is being held in the Federal District Women’s Penitentiary, known as Colmeia. Jérsyka was arrested in flagrante delicto and could convert the temporary arrest into pre-trial detention or be released using an electronic anklet. So far, of the nearly 1,500 inmates, Moraes has held 740 people in jail and released 335 with anklets.
From USP to Army HQ
A medical student at the University of São Paulo (USP), she celebrated her 35th birthday on January 6 – two days before she was arrested – in front of the Ibirapuera barracks, in the capital of São Paulo, where she had spent most of its time since the end of the elections. Her mother didn’t even say congratulations and she was afraid to send a gift.
“If I sent her anything, even some money, I knew she would use it to go to Brasilia. I don’t know how she got there, but she went,” she said. For her mother, her daughter found a way to escape reality in the Bolsonarista camp.
Separation in elections
An engineering graduate, Jérsyka had moved, in 2020, from Fortaleza, where she was born, to São Paulo, after being approved in the USP entrance exam. On social media she has been sharing her class routine, physical training, healthy eating and has posted photos with family and friends of hers. But, in September 2022, the focus of her posts changed and became almost exclusively political.
“She and my son-in-law were separated, which we’ve been discussing since the beginning of the year, but they haven’t told us. When the elections started, because he was from the left, the two started arguing and disagreeing, to the point that they had nothing else to talk about,” Roberta said.
With the dissatisfaction following the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), supported by both Roberta and her daughter, the student began to become increasingly involved in the Bolsonarist movements in São Paulo.
“I know she is a good natured girl. Unfortunately it was loneliness, anxiety, the absence of family members. She leaned on the people who were there. I told her leaders took advantage of weakness, lack of knowledge and promoted themselves through lives and followers,” her mother said.
In November, Jérsyka was one of the Bolsonarists camped in front of the Ibirapuera barracks. On Twitter, a college colleague of his reported that she missed USP exams because he was at headquarters and not in class.
“While he was at headquarters, I wasn’t that concerned. I was more unhappy that she was wasting his time, because she would have to look for an apartment, she would have to study. I was against it, I did everything to make him understand,” said Roberta.
The mother’s concern is that her daughter will not be able to go back to college when she gets out of prison. Roberta receives BRL 4,768.02 in pension as a military widow: Jérsyka’s father was a second lieutenant. It is with this compensation that she keeps her daughter studying in São Paulo, because, although the USP is public, Jérsyka still has to meet the costs of transport, board and lodging.
“A doctor should be the son of the rich, not the poor. [Jérsyka] She’s a very precious girl who’s been through USP, and all of a sudden, this happens.
Since 2017, Jérsyka has received at least four social benefits from the federal government, detailed below:
- Bolsa Família: a total of BRL 7,999.00, between August 2017 and October 2021, in monthly installments ranging from BRL 171 to BRL 179
- Auxílio Brasil (successor of Bolsa Família): a total of BRL 3,666.00, between November 2021 and November 2022, in monthly installments ranging from BRL 202 to BRL 400
- Emergency aid: total of BRL 5,344.00, between April 2020 and September 2021, in monthly installments ranging from BRL 211 to BRL 600
- Scholarship for scientific initiation: total of R$ 11,356.07, between September 2014 and February 2017, in monthly installments of R$ 400
No money for the lawyer
“Roberta, my daughter, don’t go. If there is a problem, we don’t have the money to pay a lawyer,” said Roberta, her mother, in an attempt to dissuade Jérsyka from the idea of traveling to Brasilia.
On Monday (9/1), the day after the proceedings, the mother learned from another daughter, Jérsyka’s sister, that the university student had been arrested. A friend from Brasilia had sent the message and already on Wednesday (11/1) had organized – and financed – a lawyer to act in the case.
According to Roberta, the lawyer was able to speak with her daughter and informed the family that the student had gone more than 24 hours without eating anything and was wearing the same clothes. Initially, the USP student’s mother and sister feared that she might catch an infection in her eye because she wears contact lenses. However, they learned that Jérsyka received new lenses and medical attention.
“At least I know she’s alive. Life starts again and she learned a lesson from there,” said Roberta. “I am not ashamed of my daughter. I know she didn’t kill, she didn’t steal and I believe she didn’t destroy anything. I’m just sad about what she’s going to discover here and that she’s going to have to take time off college and start her own life over,” she added.
According to her, both Jérsyka and other Bolsonarists arrested for participating in acts of coup were deceived by people “interested in doing evil”.
“It was naivety and lack of political knowledge, because they were people [nos acampamentos] who didn’t have much education. We know that, behind this, there are thinking minds and financiers who have caught the weakest,” she said.
The next step, he said, will be to help Roberta Jérsyka start over.
“I hope to see my daughter again, receive her at the airport, hug her, continue to take care of her, even with the electronic anklet”.
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