Words by Ritika Srivatsan, News Editor

On the 8th of January, thousands of protestors stormed key government offices in Brazil. The National Congress, Supreme Court, and the presidential palace were all under attack as protestors called for military intervention to oust President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. 

Donning the national yellow and green colours, rioters wreaked havoc by vandalising infrastructure and tearing documents. Their anger stemmed from Lula da Silva being sworn into office for his third stint on the 1st of January, after defeating former President Jair Bolsonaro in a closely contested election last year. 

The pro-Bolsonaro rioters contest leftist leader Lula da Silva’s election win. Ever since the announcement of the election results in 2022, pro-Bolsonaro supporters have created chaos throughout Brazil. Fuelled by Bolsonaro’s claims of the election being rigged and there being widespread fraud, Bolsonaro’s proponents questioned the integrity of the election. They refused to accept Lula da Silva’s election win and gathered to demand military intervention to restrict him from returning to office. 

Bolsonaro condemned the attacks on Twitter by stating ‘Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practised by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule’. 

Regardless, Bolsonaro has still refused to acknowledge Lula da Silva as president and outlines himself as ‘president’ on all his social media accounts. He also refrained from attending Lula da Silva’s inauguration and did not take part in the historic gesture of handing over the presidential sash to the newly sworn-in president. 

‘This is exactly what the ex-president was encouraging his supporters to do,’ stated President Lula da Silva, referring to rioters storming government offices. He also called the protesters ‘fanatic fascists,’ and issued an emergency order instilling the federal government with the authority to lead public security. He also blamed Brasilia’s military police for not subduing rioters effectively. ‘They did absolutely nothing,’ stated the President who promised that all those involved in inspiring or aiding the invasion would be investigated and punished. 

Over a thousand people have been arrested so far. Supreme Court justice Alexandre de Moraes also issued warrants for police commander Colonel Fabio Augusto and Anderson Torres, the chief of public security for Brasilia. Moraes accused both officials of deliberately turning a blind eye towards violence and said they were being investigated for terrorism and anti-democratic acts. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the attacks via Twitter and stated, ‘I condemn any attempt to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and the democratic will of the people of Brazil.’ He ensured Lula da Silva’s government has the United Kingdom’s ‘full support’.

Some political analysts have drawn parallels between the events that occurred in Brasilia to the riot that took place in the United States on 6th January 2021 wherein supporters of former US President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to demonstrate their discontent with new President Joe Biden assuming office. 

President Biden called the riot in Brasilia ‘outrageous’. He tweeted, ‘I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.’Rafael Cortez, a political scientist at the São Paulo-based consulting firm Tendências said, ‘It shows just how many challenges are ahead for democracy,’. 

Picture Credits: Reuters

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