Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s seat of power

Adriana Lima
By Adriana Lima 5 Min Read

Supporters of populist former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on Sunday, a week after Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was sworn in as the new president of Brazil.

Thousands of people loyal to the right-wing Bolsonaro broke through the police barricades and entered the Congress and Supreme Court buildings, Bolsonaro supporters – called Bolsonaristi – also surrounded the presidential palace, demanding Lula’s resignation, although the president was travelling araquara and not in the capital, Brasilia. Congress was also on hiatus, leaving the building nearly empty.

Lula released an official statement at 4:00 pm ET, saying he would sign a urgent decree, effective until January 31, allowing the federal government to implement “any necessary measures” to calm the unrest in the capital.

“They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did”, Lula’s account tweeted on Sunday. “And you know there are several speeches by the former president that encourage that. And this is also the responsibility of him and of the parties that supported him ”.

Videos of Bolsonarists draped in yellow flags and sitting at lawmakers’ desks appeared on Twitter Sunday afternoon in a scene reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by right-wing supporters of the former US president Donald Trump. All afternoon, protesters windows destroyed in the Supreme Court building, flew the Brazilian imperial flag above the Palazzo dei Congressiset fire to a carpet in the lower house of Congress, looted gifts from foreign dignitariesand reportedly attacked a news photojournalist Metropolis.

The Capitol Police force initially used tear gas against protesters; however, this failed to deter the protesters and prompted the guards to seek cover behind the building. The Brazilian Armed Forces and riot police as well as the the entire police force of the state of Brazilthey have been summoned in an attempt to quell the protests, but as of this writing the Bolsonarists remain in federal buildings.

By 3:30 pm Eastern time, dozens of Army officers had arrived on the scene, some storming presidential offices; two helicopters also flew over the presidential offices, with officers on board deploying the New York Times reporter Andre Spigariol described as tear gas and riot munitions.

Similar to the rioters who stormed the US Capitol almost exactly two years ago, Bolsonarists are driven by the belief that the 2022 Brazilian election was rigged and that Bolsonaro is the real winner of the election. Bolsonaro has been in the United States since Lula took office on January 1, 2023 and has not yet publicly commented on the situation.

Lula won a runoff between himself and Bolsonaro in October last year, marking a return to power after a stint in prison on corruption charges. Lula, a leftist former president who helped raise living standards for millions of Brazilians strengthening the country’s social programs, he served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. He served in prison from 2018 to 2021.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said the election was rigged or unfair and instructed his followers to “going to war” if Lula “stole” the election. Even before Lula’s victory in the second round of elections, Bolsonaro supporters were protesting, camping near military bases and pleading with the military to intervene and keep Bolsonaro in power by preventing Lula from taking office. Other protests have involved road and highway blockades, including blockades of semi-trailer driversafter Bolsonaro posted a video of himself driving a tractor, semi-trailer and bus, which was interpreted by some of his supporters as encouragement.

“Anyone who did this will be found and punished,” Lula wrote on Twitter. “Democracy guarantees the right to free expression, but it also requires people to respect institutions. There is no precedent in the country’s history of what they have done today. For this they must be punished.”


Evaristo SA/AFP via Getty Images

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