Wall Street Times

Brazil: What we know about the rioting

Image Source: NPR

Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro broke into the country’s Congress, presidential palace, and supreme court on Sunday, just like supporters of former US President Donald Trump did two years ago.

Brazilian media say that security forces took back control of the three buildings at around 6.30 p.m. local time, three hours after the first reports of an attack. On TV, people were seen being led away in handcuffs by the hundreds. Police said they had arrested 300 people in connection with the attacks.

After the invaders first took over the security forces in the capital, the leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, ordered a federal security intervention in Brazil. This put law enforcement under the control of the central government until January 31. He said that the police were “incompetent, bad-faith, or evil,” and he promised quick action. Lula, who is now the president, beat Bolsonaro in a runoff election last year.

Bolsonaro responded to the violence on Sunday with social media posts defending his performance in office while arguing that the assault on public buildings went too far.

Lula criticized ex-President Bolsonaro and complained about a lack of security in the city, claiming that officials had allowed “fascists” and “fanatics” to cause havoc.

Thousands of yellow and green-clad protesters ran wild in the city, capping months of tension following the October 30 referendum. Bolsonaro, a Trump supporter who has yet to accept defeat, promoted the incorrect assumption that Brazil’s e-voting system was prone to fraud, inciting a violent movement of election skeptics. Bolsonaro flew to Florida 48 hours before his term expired and did not attend Lula’s inauguration. The violence in Brazil may aggravate Bolsonaro’s legal problems. It must also be resolved for US officials deciding how to handle his presence in Florida.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes of the Supreme Court suspended Ibaneis Rocha, the pro-Bolsonaro governor of the federal district in which Brasilia is located, for 90 days after outrage that authorities had failed to prevent the attack. “The attacks could only have occurred with the acquiescence, or possibly direct involvement, of public security and intelligence personnel,” De Moraes concluded.

Both Democrats in the US Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joaquin Castro, have called for Bolsonaro’s extradition from the country. “The US must cease granting Bolsonaro asylum in Florida,” Ocasio-Cortez said, comparing the protests to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. “Nearly two years after fascists attacked the US Capitol, we find fascist movements abroad attempting to do the same in Brazil.”

The US president, Joe Biden, condemned what he called an “assault on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” adding that Brazil’s democratic institutions “had the full backing of the United States, and the will of the Brazilian people must not be compromised.”

The supreme court, whose crusading justice Alexandre de Moraes has been a critic of Bolsonaro and his followers, was looted by the occupants, according to social media images of protestors clubbing security cameras and breaking the windows of the modernist institution.

Brazil’s governor, Ibaneis Rocha, stated on Twitter that he had fired his top security official, Anderson Torres, who was previously Bolsonaro’s justice secretary. The solicitor general’s office has issued an arrest warrant for Torres.

Lula promises to punish rioters

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has threatened to punish followers of the country’s former leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who stormed Congress.

Supporters of the expelled far-right leader also invaded the presidential palace and stormed the Supreme Court.

However, following hours of struggle, police seized control of the buildings in Brasilia’s capital on Sunday evening.

Brasilia’s Civil Police said 300 people had been arrested, and officials promised to find everyone else involved.

On Monday morning, heavily armed officers gathered outside a camp of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters in the city, one of several put up outside army sites across the country since the victory in October.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has suspended Brasilia’s governor, Ibaneis Rocha, for 90 days.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes charged him with failing to prevent the disruption and remaining “painfully mute” in the face of the attack. Mr. Rocha apologized for the events of Sunday.

Leftist politicians and organizations are organizing pro-democracy protests around Brazil.

The extraordinary events, in which thousands of demonstrators dressed in yellow Brazil football jerseys and banners overcame police and ransacked the center of the Brazilian state, occurred only a week after Lula’s inauguration.

He inspected the damage to the Supreme Court building on Sunday night.

The veteran left-wing leader was forced to declare an emergency before deploying the national guard to restore order in the capital.

He also ordered the capital’s center, including the main avenue where government buildings are located, to be blocked for 24 hours.

According to Justice Minister Flavio Dino, the invasion was an “absurd attempt to impose [the protesters’] will by force.”

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Mr. Bolsonaro has frequently refused to acknowledge that he lost the election in October. He left the country last week instead of participating in the inaugural ceremonies, where he would have handed over the renowned presidential sash.

Six hours after the rioting began, the 67-year-old, believed to be in Florida, criticized the violence and claimed culpability for encouraging the rioters in a tweet.

He also targeted security forces, accusing them of “incompetence, bad faith, or malice” for failing to prevent demonstrators from entering Congress.