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Rioters supporting former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and the presidential palace

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva inspects the damage to Palazzo Pranato in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 8, 2023. Pranato Palace was attacked by supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva inspects the damage to Palazzo Pranato in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 8, 2023. Pranato Palace was attacked by supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejected his defeat in the election. On Sunday, a week after President Luiz Inácio da Silva, Bolsonaro’s left-wing rival, took office, Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the capital’s Congress, Supreme Court, and the presidential palace.

Thousands of demonstrators bypassed security barricades, climbed rooftops, smashed windows, and trespassed into all three buildings believed to be largely vacant on Brasilia’s vast Sanquan Square. Some of the demonstrators called for military intervention to either return far-right Bolsonaro to power or oust Lula from the presidency.

At a news conference in São Paulo state, Lula said Bolsonaro encouraged demonstrations that he called “fascist fanatics.” He read out a newly signed decree ordering the federal government to control security in the Federal District.

“There is no precedent for what they have done, and these people need to be punished,” Lula said.

The TV channel Globo News showed protesters wearing green and yellow flags. These two colors also symbolize the conservative movement of the country and were adopted by Bolsonaro’s supporters. The former president had repeatedly spat with Supreme Court justices, and the room where they met was destroyed by rioters. They sprayed fire hoses inside the Capitol and ransacked offices in the presidential palace. Windows in all three buildings were broken. Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida before Lula’s inauguration, did not comment on Sunday’s event.

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Police fired tear gas as they struggled to retake the building, and in late afternoon television showed footage of protesters walking down the slope from the presidential palace with their hands tied behind their backs. Justice Minister Flavio Dino said at a press conference that by late afternoon control of the buildings had been regained and about 200 people were arrested and the police fired more tear gas to disperse the remaining protesters in the area.

But with the destruction already done, many in Brazil question how the police can ignore the flood of warnings, be unprepared, or somehow complicit. Lula told a news conference that police were “incompetent or malicious” and that they were equally taken lightly when Bolsonaro’s supporters rioted in the capital a few weeks ago. He promised that the officers would be punished and expelled from the police.

The incident is reminiscent of January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. For months, political analysts have warned of the possibility of a similar storm in Brazil, as Bolsonaro casts doubt on the reliability of the country’s electronic voting system without any evidence. Politicians in various fields, including some of Bolsonaro’s allies and dozens of foreign governments, believe the outcome is legitimate.

Unlike the 2021 attacks in the United States, it is likely that few officials worked in the Brazilian Congress and Supreme Court on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden told reporters that the unrest in Brazil was “outrageous.” His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, went a step further on Twitter, saying the United States “condemns any act that undermines democracy in Brazil.” Biden then tweeted that he looked forward to continuing to work with Lula, calling the riots an “attack on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil.” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley tweeted: “Violent attempts to undermine democracy in Brazil are unjustified. President Lula and the Brazilian Government have the full support of the United Kingdom. ”

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Early videos on social media showed a limited presence of the capital’s gendarmerie; One showed officers standing aside as people poured into Congress, one of whom recorded images with his cellphone. The capital’s security secretariat did not respond to The Associated Press’s request for comment on the relative absence of police.

Maurício Santoro, a professor of political science at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said: “Brazilian authorities have two years to learn from the invasion of the Capitol and prepare for a similar incident in Brazil. “Local security forces in Brasilia have failed to systematically prevent and respond to extremist acts in the city.” New federal authorities, such as the Attorney General and the Defence Minister, have also failed to act decisively. The governor of the Federal District, Ibanis Rosa, confirmed on Twitter that he had fired the head of public security in the capital, Anderson Torres. Local media reported that Torres is currently in the United States.

Lula’s attorney general’s office asked the Supreme Court to order Torres’ imprisonment. Since October 30, Bolsonaro’s supporters have been protesting Lula’s electoral victory. They blocked roads, burned vehicles, and gathered outside military buildings, urging the armed forces to intervene. The head of Brazil’s electoral authorities rejected a request by Bolsonaro and his party to cancel ballots on most electronic voting machines.

“In the two years since Jan. 6, Trump’s legacy continues to poison our hemisphere,” U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter. He added that he accused Bolsonaro of inciting the acts. “Protecting democracy and holding malign actors accountable is critical.”

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(This article is based on an Associated Press report)

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