Brazil investigates after storming of Congress by backers of Bolsonaro, known as ‘Trump of Tropics’

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JANUARY 9, 2023

Security forces arrest supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro after retaking control of Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia on Sunday.TON MOLINA, AFP via Getty Images

A day after thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace authorities launched an investigation and a chorus of condemnation poured in from dignitaries and world leaders.

The protesters, who ransacked the government buildings in the capital Brasilia, appeared to be seeking military intervention to either restore far-right Bolsonaro to power or oust his newly inaugurated leftist rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in a general election in October, and Bolsonaro has stoked claims of electoral fraud. No evidence has emerged to support these allegations.

Brazil Congress storming recap: What just happened?

In scenes of chaos and destruction reminiscent of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, rioters donning the green and yellow of Brazil’s national flag on Sunday broke through police barricades and gained entry to the monumental buildings. Once inside, they smashed windows, toppled furniture and hurled computers to the ground. At the Supreme Court, they overturned the U-shaped table where justices convene, ripped doors off offices and vandalized an iconic statue outside the court. The buildings were largely empty at the time. Lula was on an official state trip to Sao Paulo.

Congress attack fallout: What’s the status of the investigation?

In a news conference late Sunday, authorities said the buildings would be inspected for evidence including fingerprints and images to hold people to account, and that the rioters apparently intended to spark similar actions nationwide. Justice Minister Flávio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and coup-mongering and that authorities have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital. As of Monday morning, at least 300 people have been arrested, the federal district’s civil police said on Twitter. Security officials have begun clearing thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters who have refused to accept October’s election results and have been living in camps outside army buildings dotted around the country.

Assault on Brazil’s democracy: Who’s saying what?

    • “They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction. We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”

      – Brazil’s Justice Minister Flávio Dino

    • Fascist fanatics.”

       Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on the rioters

    • “Bolsonarism mimics the same strategies as Trumpism. Our Jan. 8 is clearly copied from Jan. 6 in the Capitol. Today’s sad episodes represent yet another attempt to destabilize democracy and demonstrate that the authoritarian, populist radicalism of Brazil’s extreme right remains active under the command of former President Bolsonaro, the ‘Trump of Latin America.’”

       Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia

  • “I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.”

    – President Joe Biden

  • “Two years since Jan. 6, Trump’s legacy continues to poison our hemisphere.”

    – Sen. Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee

  • “China closely follows and firmly opposes the violent attack.”

    – Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman

  • “I am thinking of these last few hours in Brazil. In many areas, a sign of the weakening of democracy is heightened political and social polarization, which does not help resolve the urgent problems of citizens.”

     Pope Francis

Security forces confront supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro who invaded Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia on Sunday.TON MOLINA, AFP via Getty Images

What about Bolsonaro? Where’s he in all this?

Two days before Lula’s Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro flew to the U.S. and took up temporary residence in Orlando, Florida. And his lawmaker son Eduardo Bolsonaro has held several meetings with former President Donald Trump, Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon and his senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller.

Protesters, supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, leave the ministries’ esplanade after a massive protest in Brasilia, Brazil, on Sunday.Eraldo Peres, AP

Writing on Twitter late Sunday, Bolsonaro said that peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are “exceptions to the rule.” He made no specific mention of the protesters’ actions in Brasilia.


Courtesy/Source: AP / This article originally appeared on USA TODAY