Brazil Protests: What We Know So Far
Thousands of demonstrators descended on Brazil’s capital city over the weekend, storming numerous government buildings in a refusal to accept right-wing former president Jair Bolsonaro’s election loss to leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The protestors, wearing Brazilian soccer team jerseys and touting Brazil’s flag, forcefully entered Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential Planalto Palace on Sunday, where they smashed windows and ransacked the buildings’ interiors and even called on the military to restore Bolsonaro’s power. The buildings allegedly suffered substantial damage, and priceless historical artefacts were stolen. One group of hostile protestors even ripped off the office door of Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes, parading it in the crowd.
It took hours for the quickly-overwhelmed police presence to restore order in the nation’s capital, resulting in the arrest of at least 1,500 of rioters during violent clashes. According to local media reports, over 40 were wounded, with six of the individuals in critical condition. Lula— who at the time was away on an official visit to a neighbouring state— declared a state of emergency, calling the protestors “fascist fanatics” and vowing to punish all those involved in orchestrating the riots. He accused Bolsonaro— who is currently in Florida— of promoting the violent unrest by encouraging the protestors.
Meanwhile, posts circulating on social media showed a cheerful Bolsonaro chatting with locals of a gated community in Orlando, Florida, and even out and about shopping at the local grocery store. According to the New York Times, Bolsonaro plans to stay in the sunshine state for at least one month, renting a residence owned by a professional MMA fighter close to DisneyWord.
However, there are also emerging reports the former Brazilian president was checked into an Orlando hospital on Monday, over alleged severe abdominal pain. Bolsonaro has been hospitalized for the condition on several occasions, after surviving a stabbing in 2018.
He brushed off Lula’s allegations that he’s to blame for the unrest, insisting the new president’s claim wasn’t based on evidence. “Peaceful demonstrations… are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today… escape the rule,” Bolsonaro said in a tweet. The 67 year-old, who fled to Florida ahead of Lula’s December 30 inauguration on an A-1 visa— which is strictly reserved for heads of state— is currently the target of numerous criminal and electoral probes in Brazil.
“A U.S. consular official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bolsonaro had almost certainly entered on an A-1 visa, which are reserved for heads of state. A second source, a senior former U.S. diplomat, also believed it was almost certain that Bolsonaro had entered on an A-1,” wrote Reuters. “Normally the A-1 is canceled after the recipient leaves office. But with Bolsonaro having left Brazil and entered the United States before his term ended, the official suspected his A-1 is still active.”
Meanwhile, in the US, a number of political leaders are condemning the pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations, with some going as far as calling on the former president’s extradition from the US.
There have also been several reactions to the events in Brasilia from leaders in the region. Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro blamed the unrest on “neo-fascist groups” operating under the guise of Bolsonaro. Likewise, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated that the events were part of an “anti-democratic coup attempt” carried out by “oligarchic power” leaders in the Brazil.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced that Argentina stands with the Brazilian people to defend democracy and prevent a return to coups promoted by the right. The Russian Foreign Ministry labeled the attempts to disrupt Brazil’s constitutional order by “radical-minded representatives of the Brazilian opposition” as “unacceptable” and emphasized the importance of maintaining internal political stability in Brazil, a “strategic partner” for Russia.
The demonstrations in Brazil’s capital city are being compared to the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021. Bolsonaro, who is sometimes called the “Trump of South America,” also called into question the accuracy of the electronic voting system and challenged the outcome of the election. However, there was a difference between the events in Washington and Brasilia: the unrest in Brazil’s capital occurred on the weekend when the government buildings were mostly vacant.
Days later, authorities appear to be moving fast in an effort to find and punish those responsible for the riots. The arrest of several top public officials has been ordered by judicial authorities, including the former commander of the military police, as well as the former public security chief. Ex-police commander Colonel Fabio Augusto was relieved of his duties upon the storming of Congress, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court, as per the BBC.
Anderson Torres, the former public security chief, meanwhile was arrested along with others for being “responsible for acts and omissions” that reportedly lead to the riots. He has been accused of conducting a “structured sabotage operation,” after he took over as Secretary of Security on January 2 and dismissed the entire command before traveling.
All told, over 1,500 people have been arrested in connection with riots and are now being detained at several facilities. Authorities have five days to formally charge them under Brazilian law.
Bolsonaro meanwhile has seen public prosecutors request that his assets be frozen following the riots, despite his condemnations.
Clean-up following the riots has also begun, with heavily armed officers reportedly in the process of dismantling pro-Bolsonaro camps, which are found around the country following the elections last year.
Information for this briefing was found via Reuters, Twitter, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.