Crowds supporting former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on Jan. 8 infiltrated and vandalized the country’s seats of power, one week after the inauguration of left-wing President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. Demonstrators smashed the windows of the the National Congress building and stormed its senate chamber. Protesters then breached the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), entering the main courtroom clad in Brazillian flags. Many also forced their way into the Planalto Palace, the presidential building. In an event eerily reminiscent of the January 2020 attack on the US Capitol, a large mass of protesters could be seen gathering outside the National Congress building while others streamed into its hallways and chamber. Protests have also been reported outside the country’s Presidential Palace. Clashes between police and protesters have been reported, but one journalist tweeted a video of what appears to be a Federal District Military Police officer taking a selfie with demonstrators.
Brazilian Justice and Public Security Minister Flávio Dino declared amidst the chaos: “This absurd attempt to impose the [protesters’] will by force will not prevail. The Government of the Federal District affirms that there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work.”
Bolsonaro lost a case Nov. 23 before Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) which rejected his request to throw out certain votes from electronic voting machines, enough to reverse the outcome of the election. Bolsonaro’s team claimed that the voting machines were faulty and that results reported from them could not be verified. After the TSE dismissed Bolsonaro’s challenge, an STF justice fined Bolsonaro for filing it in bad faith.
It took Bolsonaro more than a week to comment on his October election loss to Lula. His administration remained silent the day after his loss but announced two days later that they would not contest the result amidst disparate allegations of election fraud from Bolsonaro supporters.
Both the STF and TSE have come under fire from Bolsonaro supporters, who continue to claim that the election was fraudulent. Bolsonaro himself questioned the integrity of the country’s voting machines in advance of the 2022 election. Flávio Bolsonaro, the ex-president’s son, took to Twitter three days before the election and said that his father is “being the victim of the biggest electoral fraud ever seen.”
President Lula said via in response to the Jan 8 violence: “They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did. And you know that there are several speeches by the former president encouraging this… [T]his is…his responsibility and the parties that supported him.
Brazil’s Attorney General Office has asked STF justices to arrest former Bolsonaro justice minister and current head of Federal District security Anderson Torres.
Hours into the attack, Bolsonaro (who fled to Florida upon the presidential transition) tweeted:
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… Throughout my mandate, I have always been within the four lines of the Constitution, respecting and defending the laws, democracy, transparency and our sacred freedom… In addition, I repudiate the accusations, without evidence, attributed to me by the current head of the executive of Brazil.
At this time Minister of Justice and Public Security Flávio Dino says that around 200 protesters have been arrested so far and that 40 buses used to transport protesters to the Federal District have been seized.
From Jurist, Jan. 8. Used with permission.
See our last report on the political crisis in Brazil.