Supporters of Brazil’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday invaded the country’s Congress, presidential palace and Supreme Court, in a grim echo of the U.S. Capitol invasion two years ago by fans of former President Donald Trump. Leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in the most fraught election in a generation last year, announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia lasting until Jan. 31. He blamed Bolsonaro for the invasion, and complained about a lack of security in the capital, saying it had let “fascists” and “fanatics” wreak havoc.
All of the rioters will be identified and punished, Lula said, while pledging to root out the financiers of the movement. Lula was far from the capital, on an official trip to Sao Paulo state. The sight of thousands of yellow-and-green clad protesters running riot in the capital capped months of tension following the Oct. 30 vote. Bolsonaro, an acolyte of Trump’s who has yet to concede defeat, peddled the false claim that Brazil’s electronic voting system was prone to fraud, spawning a violent movement of election deniers.
The invasion poses an immediate problem for Lula, who was only inaugurated on Jan. 1 and has pledged to unite a nation torn by Bolsonaro’s nationalist populism. Television images showed protesters breaking into the Supreme Court and Congress, chanting slogans and smashing furniture. Local media estimated about 3,000 people were involved. Bolsonaro, who has barely spoken in public since losing the election, left Brazil for Florida 48 hours before the end of his mandate and was absent from Lula’s inauguration.
The violent scenes in Brasilia could amplify the legal risks to Bolsonaro, who has so far not commented on the invasions. The Bolsonaro family lawyer, Frederick Wassef, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Supreme Court was ransacked by the occupiers, according to social media images that showed protesters shattering the windows of the modernist building.
A policeman on horseback was surrounded by shouting demonstrators armed with sticks who knocked him off his mount. Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha told Reuters that all security forces had been deployed to confront the rioters. He subsequently wrote on Twitter that he had fired his top security official, Anderson Torres, previously Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia warned U.S. citizens to avoid the area until further notice. “Violence has no place in a democracy,” Douglas Koneff, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Brasilia, wrote on Twitter. “We strongly condemn the attacks on the institutions of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Powers in Brasilia, which is also an attack on democracy. There is no justification for these acts!”
On Saturday, with rumors of a confrontation brewing, Justice Minister Flávio Dino authorized the deployment of the National Public Security Force. On Sunday, he wrote on Twitter, “this absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail.” Latin American leaders were quick to condemn the scenes.
“All my solidarity with Lula and the people of Brazil,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro tweeted. “Fascism decides to conduct a coup.” Chilean President Gabriel Boric said Lula’s government has his full support “in the face of this cowardly and vile attack on democracy.”
In Washington in 2021, Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades and stormed the Capitol in a failed effort to prevent congressional certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump, who has announced a third bid for the presidency, in 2024, had pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify the vote, and he continues to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.
In Brasilia there have been at least three accounts of protesters assaulting journalists, according to the Brasilia journalists’ union, which cited unconfirmed reports.
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