Bolsonaro backers ransack Brazil presidential palace, Congress, Supreme Court

Security forces detain supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside Brazil’s National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

On Sunday, supporters of Brazil's far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro attacked and vandalized the country's Congress, presidential palace, and Supreme Court in a macabre echo of the two-year-old Capitol assault by supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

There were no early reports of casualties or injuries. Still, the intruders left a path of destruction, tossing furniture through the shattered windows of the presidential palace, flooding portions of Congress with a sprinkler system, and ransacking formal rooms of the Supreme Court.

The spectacle of hundreds of demonstrators dressed in yellow and green running amok in the capital culminated in months of anxiety following the presidential election on October 30.

The roughly three-hour outburst highlighted the deep divide that still holds the country days after the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in October's election.

"These vandals, who we could call ... fanatical fascists, did what has never been done in the history of this country," stated Lula during a press conference during an official visit to the state of Sao Paulo. The perpetrators will all be identified and punished.

Lula, who announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia until January 31 after invaders first overran the capital's security forces, blamed Bolsonaro for inflaming his fans with a campaign of unsubstantiated charges of possible election fraud.

Allies of the president also questioned why public security officers in the capital Brasilia were so unprepared and quickly overrun by rioters who had planned weekend demonstrations on social media for days.

Legal Risk

Bolsonaro, a Trump disciple who has not conceded loss, propagated a bogus idea that Brazil's electronic voting system was susceptible to fraud, spawning a violent movement of election deniers.

"This genocide... is encouraging this via social media from Miami," Lula stated, alluding to Bolsonaro, who went to Florida 48 hours before the end of his tenure and missed Lula's inauguration. Everyone is aware that numerous ex-presidential addresses encourage this.

Bolsonaro, whose administration was characterized by divisive nationalist populism, remained mute about the mayhem in Brasilia for nearly six hours until posting on Twitter that he "repudiates" Lula's claims against him.

Additionally, the former president, who has seldom addressed the public since losing the election, stated that peaceful demonstrations are a part of democracy but that entering and damaging public facilities "crosses the line."

The incident in Brasilia may increase Bolsonaro's legal risks. It also poses a problem for U.S. officials, who must decide how to deal with his stay in Florida. Notable Democratic politicians stated that the United States could no longer offer "refuge" to Bolsonaro.

Frederick Wassef, the family attorney representing the Bolsonaro family, did not respond to a request for comment.

By 6:30 p.m. local time (2130 GMT), security personnel had retaken the three most famous buildings in the city.

On Twitter, Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, a longstanding Bolsonaro friend facing tough questions in the wake of Sunday's security failures, reported that more than 400 persons had been arrested and that authorities were still identifying more.

The incursions were criticized by world leaders everywhere.

U.S. President Joe Biden referred to the events as an "assault on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power" and stated that the United States fully supported Brazil's democratic institutions.

Bolsonaro supporters' post-election highway blockades have hampered grain supplies and meatpacking businesses over the past few months.

As a precautionary measure, Petrobras increased security at its refineries in response to attack threats against its assets, including Brazil's most prominent fuel refinery.

According to a statement released by Petroleo Brasileiro SA, all of its assets and refineries are running normally.

Analysts cautioned that the upheaval might increase the volatility of Brazil's financial markets, which have swung wildly in recent weeks due to concerns about Lula's ability to balance his significant spending pledges with the country's strained public finances.

Judges Denounce 'Terrorists'

According to social media photographs, the Supreme Court, whose crusading Justice Alexandre de Moraes has been a thorn in the side of Bolsonaro and his supporters, was trashed by the invaders, who smashed surveillance cameras and smashed the windows of the modernist edifice.

Moraes and the court's chief justice, Rosa Weber, vowed to punish the "terrorists" who had targeted the democratic institutions of the country. According to those familiar with the situation, both chambers of Congress leaders openly condemned the attacks and accelerated their return to the city.

Rocha, the governor of Brasilia, said that he had removed Anderson Torres, formerly Bolsonaro's minister of justice. The attorney general's office stated that it had filed a warrant for Torres' arrest.

Torres informed the newspaper UOL that he was on vacation with his family in the United States and had not met Bolsonaro. According to UOL, he was in Orlando, where Bolsonaro is currently living.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino ordered the deployment of the National Public Security Force on Saturday amid rumors of an impending confrontation in Brasilia. On Sunday, he tweeted, "this absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail."

Trump supporters assaulted police, breached barricades, and stormed the Capitol in 2021 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent legislative certification of Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

Trump, who has launched a third run for the presidency in 2024, exerted pressure on Mike Pence, his vice president, not to certify the result, and he continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through massive fraud.

Publish : 2023-01-09 17:04:00

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