HAVANA TIMES – Brazil’s democracy proved resistant on Sunday, January 8th, when thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro forcefully stormed and occupied the central seats of government, including Parliament and the Supreme Court, for 4 hours. This was the gravest attack on Brazil’s status as a republic since the military coup of 1964. The Bolsonaro supporters’ offensive took place seven days after Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was inaugurated, after narrowly defeating Bolsonaro in October’s run-off election.
The right-wing extremists violently forced their way into the government buildings, destroying everything in their path. At the time, Lula was on a visit to the city of Araraquara, in the Sao Paolo state of eastern Brazil.
The mob wreaked extensive damage, destroying palace furniture and throwing the pieces out the windows and onto the streets. Authorities haven’t yet been able to fully estimate the costly damages caused by the attackers.
After the attack had been subdued, government workers discovered paintings thrown to the floor with their canvases ripped, along with damaged computers, printers and televisions, according to videos posted by Paulo Pimenta, Brazil’s new Communications Minister.
The mob did not succeed in reaching President Lula’s private offices in the Planalto Palace, since Police arrived about the time they were approaching it, official sources told EFE.
The radical Bolsonaro devotees deny the validity of the October 30 election results, when Lula defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro by a narrow margin of under 2 percent.
On Sunday, the extremists perched on the ramp of the National Congress building and shouted slogans demanding the intervention of Brazil’s armed forces to depose Lula and reinstall Bolsonaro as president. Since the election results were confirmed in October, the military has steadfastly ignored these demands, and on this occasion the military leaders maintained a strict silence.
According to preliminary reports, there are currently some 200 people under arrest, although Flavio Dino, the Justice Minister announced that more arrests for the “terrorist acts” would be forthcoming in the next hours.
The attacks on Brazil’s institutions were greeted with unanimous condemnation from all of Brazil’s major entities and by the governments of Latin America, the United States and Europe.
A coordinated attack
Sunday’s protests were organized by a group of fanatical Bolsonaro supporters, who had remained camped in front of the main Army Barracks in the Brazilian capital since the day following the elections.
During over two months that they’ve been camped there, these radical right-wingers have been responsible for a number of violent actions, among them an attack on a police station and a frustrated attempt to place an explosive device near Brazil’s airport two weeks ago.
On Sunday, thousands of other Bolsonaro sympathizers were bused in from other areas of the country to join the demonstrations calling for a coup d’etat.
The demonstrators, draped in the Brazilian flag and sporting t-shirts with its green and yellow colors, headed to the center of Brasilia, the country’s capital, in mid-afternoon. They had no trouble breaking through the small police cordon around the Esplanade of Ministries, where all the central government buildings are located.
The mob headed towards the National Congress building, and then on to the Supreme Court and the Planalto Presidential Palace, all of them located around the Plaza de Tres Poderes, [Plaza of the three government branches].
In the face of initial inaction from Brazil’s Capital Police, the protestors broke the windows and damaged the interiors of the government buildings, considered World Heritage Sites.
Lula da Silva reacts
Newly inaugurated President Lula da Silva ordered the immediate intervention of the Federal District Security Forces, which cover the area around Brasilia, as well as the National Security Forces. These agents helped expel the invaders from the government buildings.
Some four and a half hours after the mob attack, anti-riot officials regained control over the seats of Brazil’s Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers, through the use of tear gas and stun grenades. The entire event echoed the violent attack on the United States Capitol exactly two years and two days previously, carried out by fanatical supporters of former US President Donald Trump, with whom Bolsonaro and his supporters are aligned.
Lula issued a statement from Araraquara, where he was assessing damages from heavy rains. He accused those responsible for security in Brasilia of “incompetence” and “bad faith”. These forces had remained under the command of State Governor Ibaneis Rocha, an ally of Bolsonaro.
Lula blamed Bolsonaro’s discourse for the situation, stating that he had “encouraged” the demonstrations of those seeking a coup. He also vowed that the “fascists” would be taken to “Justice,” along with those who had financially backed the attack.
A short time before Lula’s announcement, Anderson Torres, Secretary for Brasilia’s Security Forces, was stripped of his post. Anderson Torres had served as Minister of Justice under Bolsonaro.
Echoes of the US Capitol Invasion
The entire event on January 8 in Brasilia recalled the January 6, 2021, invasion of the US Capitol Building. In the latter case, the building was attacked and briefly occupied by sympathizers of former President Donald Trump, who maintains friendly relations with Bolsonaro. The Brazilian attack however, was on a greater scale than the US incident.
Jair Bolsonaro, an admirer of Donald Trump, is currently in Orlando, Florida, where he’s been since two days before Lula’s inauguration. Bolsonaro arrived in Florida on a ticket with no return date.
At the time of the events, neither he nor his children, his closest collaborators, spoke about the serious incidents that occurred in Brasilia.