Latin America

Congress raid in Brazil! Lula:”Fascist vandals”

After Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings in Brasilia, President Lula inspected the damage on site. He sharply condemned the attackers. The capital's security chief has been fired.

After supporters of right-wing Brazilian ex-president Jair Bolsonaro attacked government buildings in the capital Brasilia, his successor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva assessed the damage on site.

Images from TV Globo showed Lula speaking to judges at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had been attacked, as had Congress and the presidential palace.

Around 3 p.m. local time, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the government district – many of them with national flags or in the jersey of the Brazilian national team. The scenes were reminiscent of the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Militant supporters of President Donald Trump, who was voted out, did not want to recognize Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

It was only hours after the riots began that security forces were largely able to bring the situation under their control. Justice Minister Flavio Dino told journalists on Sunday evening that the three buildings that had been stormed had been completely cleared. According to Dino, more than 200 people were arrested.

The damage to the Congress building, the Presidential Palace and the Supreme Court appears to be extensive. The buildings are considered icons of modern architecture and contain numerous works of art. Among other things, photos published on online networks showed that a painting by artist Emiliano Cavalcanti exhibited in the Presidential Palace had several holes.

President Lula, who was in the southeastern city of Araraquara, which was devastated by floods in 2022, at the time of the attack, called the attack “unprecedented in Brazilian history.” The donors behind the protests would pay for the “irresponsible and undemocratic acts”. He called the attackers “fascist vandals”.

Controversial role of the police

The police initially seemed completely overwhelmed by the attacks by Bolsonaro supporters. These had overcome police barriers and were pushed into the congress building, as could be seen in videos distributed on online networks. They smashed doors and windows and then poured into the building in large numbers. According to photos published on online networks, they also smashed the offices of several deputies.

Several used the sloping lectern in the Senate as a slide, shouting insults at the absent senators. According to a journalists’ union, five journalists were also injured in the riots. Among them was an AFP photographer who was beaten and had all of his equipment stolen.

Brasilia’s security chief fired

The capital’s security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister, has been fired. Bolsonaro supporters had apparently organized themselves into Telegram groups and announced a demonstration under the motto “tomada de poder”, seizure of power. According to local media, the Senate in Brasilia was aware of this, which is why it asked for the security forces to be strengthened. A requirement that Torres did not meet.

The attorney general’s office also said it was asking the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres and all other officials responsible for “acts and omissions” that led to the riots.

Internationally, the attack caused sharp criticism and outrage. US President Joe Biden called the attack “outrageous”. EU Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter that he condemned the attack on “Brazil’s democratic institutions in the strongest terms”. Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on Twitter: “The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and the heads of state of Mexico and Argentina, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Alberto Fernandez, also expressed harsh words of condemnation.

Bolsonaro himself also condemned the attack

Bolsonaro himself also condemned the attack. “Looting and entering public buildings, as happened today,” violates the “rule” for “peaceful demonstrations,” he wrote on Twitter. He himself, however, defends himself against the “unproven allegations” of Lula. He accuses Bolsonaro of “encouraging” the attackers.

Bolsonaro left Brazil two days before the end of his term and has been in Florida since then. Lula, who has been the idol of the Latin American left for years, won the runoff election for the presidency on October 30 by a razor-thin margin over Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro and his supporters do not recognize Lula’s election victory.

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