Rioters supporting former president Jair Bolsonaro attacked government buildings in Brazil’s capital before the attack was quelled by police. Hundreds have been arrested.
A conservative president lost reelection, refused to concede defeat, then decamped for Florida. Thousands of his supporters refused to accept the results and converged on the nation’s capital. Rioters broke into government buildings, trashing the Congress, presidential residence, and the Supreme Court. Sound familiar? Welcome to Brazil in 2023.
- The rioters stormed government buildings in Brasilia, the capital city, seeking a military intervention to restore Jair Bolsonaro to power after his defeat in October’s presidential election. Decked in green and yellow, Brazil’s national colors, they smashed windows, defaced paintings, and vandalized statues in an orgy of chaos and destruction.
- Brazil, a nation of 215 million people, has its own politics, electoral controversies, and history of military intervention in political affairs. Brazilians angry over the bitter 2022 presidential election are acting for their own reasons, but the parallels with Jan. 6 are striking.
- The riots are a direct challenge to left President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as “Lula,” who defeated Bolsonaro in the election and took office last week. Police regained control of the government buildings late Sunday and Lula vowed the rioters would be punished.
- At least 400 rioters have been arrested as of Monday morning, and the Supreme Court ordered camps of protesters in Brasilia and other major cities to be dismantled by police.
- Hundreds of riot police were seen amassing at the encampment close to the headquarters of Brazil’s army, while nearby soldiers withdrew. The Supreme Court ordered the governor of Brasilia to be removed from office for alleged security failings in the leadup to the attack.
- Bolsonaro’s decision to fly to Florida rather than attend his successor’s inauguration may draw the U.S. into the crisis. A chorus of Brazilian leaders – and some congressional Democrats – are calling on Biden to extradite Bolsonaro back to Brazil to face any charges that arise from the riots.
- President Joe Biden condemned the riots Sunday night. “I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” he tweeted. “Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.”
- Lula returned to Brasilia Sunday night to tour the wreckage of the presidential palace and other government buildings, The Guardian reported. Brazil’s leader, who previously served as president from 2003-2011, pledged to punish the “vandals, neo-fascists and fanatics” who launched what one Brazilian news anchor called a “terrorist attack” by “coup-mongering terrorists.”
- CNN reported world leaders ranging from President Joe Biden, Pope Francis, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and nearly all Latin American presidents condemned the attacks and pledged to support Lula.
- The Washington Post examined Bolsonaro’s role in stoking the riots, arguing his inflammatory rhetoric throughout a nasty general election campaign and his refusal to concede – and decision to flee to Florida – all were key factors in the leadup to the assault on Brasilia.
- National Review called the riots “Brazil’s January 6 moment,” observing that unlike in the United States, Brazil’s democratic institutions are much more fragile and the attempted coup could inflict real damage to the democratic institutions of Latin America’s largest nation.
- Fox News noted that Bolsonaro backers have been protesting Lula since he won the election on Oct. 30. Bolsonaristas have blocked roads, committed arson attacks on vehicles, and gathered outside of military buildings begging for an intervention from the armed forces.
- Jair Bolsonaro criticized the rioters acting in his name, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. “Peaceful demonstrations, within the law, are part of democracy. However, vandalism and the invasion of public buildings like today’s acts, and like those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, are an exception,” said Bolsonaro in a statement from Orlando, Florida.
© Dominic Moore, 2023