Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro storm the Planalto Palace building in Brasilia, January 8, 2023 © AP / Eraldo Peres
World leaders express their solidarity with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government
The newly-inaugurated Brazilian president was forced to declare a state of emergency in the Federal District of Brasilia on Sunday, after thousands of supporters of his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, overran Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential Planalto Palace.
The leftist leader denounced the demonstrators as “vandals and fascists,” blaming Bolsonaro for filling their heads with extremism, and vowed to make those responsible for the chaos “pay with the force of the law,” while pledging to get to the bottom of “who are the financiers” of the unrest.
Security forces already detained at least 170 people for storming the government buildings and other crimes allegedly committed during the riot, according to police. The Governor of the Federal District Ibaneis Rocha claimed that “more than 400 people” have been detained.
The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, was among the first regional leaders to address the crisis he dubbed an attempted coup.
“Fascism decides to carry out a coup. The right wing has not been able to maintain the non-violence pact,” he tweeted on Sunday, calling on the Organization of American States to prove its relevance and hold an urgent meeting.
President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina meanwhile declared that his nation stands “together with the Brazilian people to defend democracy and never again allow the return of the coup ghosts promoted by the right.”
“I put the member countries on alert so that we unite in this unacceptable anti-democratic reaction that is trying to be imposed in Brazil,” he added as a rotating president of two other regional organizations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Southern Common Market.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also described the chaos as a “reprehensible and anti-democratic coup attempt,” accusing the “leaders of oligarchic power, its spokespersons and fanatics” of inciting the unrest.
Chilean president Gabriel Boric slammed the incident as a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy,” also expressing full support for the government of Brazil.
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro expressed confidence that Brazilian people “will surely mobilize in defense of peace and their president,” blaming the violence on “Bolsonaro’s neo-fascist groups.”
Havana also expressed solidarity with its “sister nation,” with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel condemning the “violent and undemocratic acts that occur in Brazil, with the aim of generating chaos and disrespecting the popular will.”
Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry condemned the violence as an attack “against the institutional framework in Brazil” and reaffirmed the country’s “unrestricted support for democracy and the legitimately elected government.”
The US also issued a brief comment on the events unfolding in the South American neighbor, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that “using violence to attack democratic institutions is always unacceptable.” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan added that President Joe Biden “is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering.”
Bolsonaro responds to Brazil riot charges
Former president said that “peaceful demonstrations” are “part of democracy”
Former Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro has denied any responsibility for the unrest that unfolded in the capital Brasilia on Sunday, after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva accused his right-wing predecessor of filling the heads of his supporters with extremism.
“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 practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Sunday evening, after authorities regained control of the government buildings seized by rioters earlier in the day.
“I repudiate the accusations, without evidence, attributed to me by the current head of the executive of Brazil,” Bolsonaro added, without mentioning Lula by name. The former leader left Brazil several days before the traditional swearing-in ceremony on January 1 rather than appear to legitimize the leftist’s win by showing up.
“This genocidist… is encouraging this via social media from Miami,” Lula claimed in a televised address earlier on Sunday, blaming what he described as the day’s “unprecedented” violence on his nemesis. He vowed to make those responsible for the chaos “pay with the force of the law,” while pledging to get to the bottom of “who are the financiers” of the riot.
On Sunday, a massive crowd of Bolsonaro’s supporters marched through the capital in yet another protest, reiterating claims that Brazil’s electronic voting system was open to fraud and other llegations of voting irregularities. After reaching the Three Powers Plaza, where all three branches of the government are located, swarms of protesters rushed through barricades and overran the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential Planalto Palace.
As the crowds wreaked havoc inside, authorities struggled to contain the unrest. The president, who was in Sao Paulo at the time, was forced to declare a state of emergency in the Federal District of Brasilia, appointing justice minister Ricardo Garcia Capelli to lead the “federal intervention.”
By Sunday evening, after hours of clashes and hundreds of arrests, riot police managed to regain control of the government buildings using tear-gas and water cannons. The Justice Minister announced that at least 200 people were detained, and warned that the arrests could continue throughout the night, as authorities are trying to identify everyone involved in what he dubbed an act of “terrorism” and an attempted “coup.”