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HomeWorldBrazilian Authorities Vow to Protect Democracy After Attack on Government Buildings

Brazilian Authorities Vow to Protect Democracy After Attack on Government Buildings

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November 20, 2021: Brazilians protest waving flags against the government of President Jair Bolsonaro in the city of Salvador, Bahia. Shutterstock/ThalesAntonio

Brazilian authorities vowed Monday to protect democracy and condemned “acts of terrorism” a day after thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed and vandalized the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential office building in the capital of Brasilia.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva toured the heavily damaged buildings late Sunday and decreed a federal security intervention in the city’s federal district. He vowed to bring the rioters to justice and promised to punish the police who failed to stop the protesters.

The decree gives the government special powers to restore law and order in the capital and lasts until January 31.

Lula, congressional leaders, and the Supreme Court president issued a statement Monday saying that “defenders of democracy” in Brazil “reject the acts of terrorism, vandalism, crime and the attempted coup” and “are united to take institutional action, according to Brazilian law.”

Brazilian officials say they have detained more than 1,200 supporters of Bolsonaro, the far-right former leader who narrowly lost the October election to the leftist Lula. The supporters of Bolsonaro, who is now staying in Orlando, in the southern U.S. state of Florida, were trying to either reinstate him or oust the newly inaugurated Lula.

Bolsonaro denied inciting his supporters and said the rioters had “crossed the line.”

Lula said, “All the people who did this will be found and punished.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday called the riots in Brazil “outrageous.”

On Monday, President Joe Biden issued a joint statement along with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the three leaders met in Mexico City for previously scheduled talks.

“We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions,” the three leaders said. “Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil. We look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond.”

In response to a question from VOA in Mexico City, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said “the freely elected leader of Brazil will govern Brazil and will not be deterred or knocked off course by the actions of these people who have assaulted the instruments of governance in Brasilia.”

At the U.N., U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “I was shocked by what I saw, but I must tell you I trust Brazil, I trust Brazilian institutions and I am absolutely convinced that Brazil will deal with this situation with adequate accountability, and that the democratic functioning of Brazil will move on.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz said, “The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated.” He said that Germany stands behind Lula.

The rioters, many of them wearing the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag, broke windows, toppled furniture, hurled computers, and printers to the ground. They overturned the U-shaped table at which Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice’s office and vandalized an iconic statue outside the court.

The interiors of the state buildings were left in a state of ruin. Justice Minister Flávio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and an attempted coup. He said police have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital.

“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” Dino said. “We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”

Despite the arrests, police were noticeably slow to react – even after the arrival of more than 100 buses, leaving some analysts to wonder whether authorities had either simply ignored numerous warnings about the intended protest, underestimated the protesters’ strength or had been somehow complicit.

Public prosecutors in the capital said local security forces had at the very least been negligent while a Supreme Court justice temporarily suspended the regional governor.

The protesters’ invasion of the Brazilian government buildings echoed the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. However, unlike in Washington, where lawmakers were in session on January 6, the buildings in Brasilia were largely vacant.

A strong police or military presence was also absent despite advance warnings that Bolsonaro’s supporters planned to descend on the buildings.

“There is no precedent for what they did, and these people need to be punished,” Lula said Sunday.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, said, “Police and the attorney general office need to investigate not just those who committed acts of violence, but those who incited and financed them. Those responsible for this extremely serious attack on Brazil’s democratic institutions should be held accountable.”

Amnesty International called for “the relevant authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations so that the acts of this Sunday, 8 January, are appropriately investigated and sanctioned.”

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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