Chaos in Brasília

By Nick Murray

On January 8, thousands of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro marched on the Three Powers Plaza in Brazil’s capital, Brasília. The far right protests argued that the latest Presidential election had been stolen by the current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, commonly referred to as Lula.  In the process, Bolsonaro’s supporters ransacked the 3 branches of Brazil’s government, the Supreme Federal Court, Congress, and Presidential Offices. Bolsonaro is largely responsible for the riot having previously spread unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and his refusal to publicly accept defeat. Believing the claims of the former president, many supporters of the former president blocked major highways and formed camps in the capital city, demanding the military to overturn the election. Many rioters reportedly urinated and defecated in the halls of the capital buildings. In addition, upwards of a dozen reporters were injured in the attacks.

In response, Lula temporarily suspended Brasília’s governor Ibaneis Rocha under suspicion of aiding and abetting rioters. To his credit, Rocha fired his head of security Anderson Torres but remains under investigation. The Brazilian President also signed an emergency decree giving the federal government temporary control over public security in the capital until the end of the month. Despite the government’s attempted responses to rioters, the Military Police have now come under fire for off duty officers taking photos with rioters. 

While chaos unfolds in his home country, Bolsonaro lies in a hospital bed in Orlando Florida. The former Brazilian President has dealt with recurring abdominal pain resulting from a stab wound in 2018. North and South American leaders including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela have condemned the attacks on Brazil’s capital. Some American lawmakers are pushing to revoke Bolsonaro’s American visa. Bolsonaro responded on twitter by denouncing the capital attacks but defending his civil service. Social Media companies have also stated they will block any posts defending and encouraging more riots in the capital. 

The attack on Brazil’s capital is eerily familiar to Americans, occurring just 2 days after the 2 year anniversary of the attacks on the United States Capitol Building. In 2020, rioters stormed the American capital, forcing representatives to remain locked in the house and senate chambers for safety while supporters of former President Trump raided offices and stormed the halls. Likewise, Trump’s supporters had been led to believe the election was stolen by Trump himself and social media played a key role in the spread of misinformation. Rioters were also seen taking photos with capitol police.

Much remains to be seen whether Lula’s presidency can respond quickly and effectively to the first major issue of his administration. Brazil’s new congress is set to be sworn in on February 2 leaving little time to respond to the attacks and turn control of the capitol back over to either the existing governor or an acting one depending on the charges brought against the governor himself.