Shades of Jan. 6: Bolsonaro supporters attack Brazilian Congress
In the same vein as Jan. 6, supporters of the former President protested the election results and stormed government buildings in Brasília.
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Days after the two-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and over a week after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s inauguration ceremony on New Year’s Day — after defeating former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro — supporters of the latter responded by storming the country’s Congress to protest the results.
On Sunday, Jan. 8, thousands of supporters of the former right-wing leader attacked the capital of Brasília and stormed Brazil’s Congress, protesting the results of the Presidential election that saw Lula take victory.
It’s being billed as one of the worst attacks on Brazil’s democracy since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985.
The attack comes after almost a year filled with false rhetoric from then-President Bolsonaro, falsely claiming the election was rigged and always undermining the country’s election and voting systems at every opportunity.
And just like that frightening day on Jan. 6, 2021 in D.C., the angry mob overwhelmed police outside the building that houses Brazil’s Congress and made their way in, breaking windows, stealing valuable items and posing for photos in legislative chambers.
Social media only fueled the situation more to the point where an attack felt justified, and supporters were looking to overturn the results, and restore Bolsonaro back to power, even though it is not plausible, as Lula was sworn in over a week ago.
Thus the results had already been certified by the country’s electoral court, not its legislature, and the Brazilian Congress was not in session.
While an attack on his country’s democracy took place, Bolsonaro was in Orlando, Florida who has been away from Brazil since before New Year’s Eve, after skipping out on the peaceful transfer of power to newly-elected Lula, also a comparable move to that of former President Donald Trump when he decided to leave D.C. hours before the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden.
Bolsonaro has been staying in a rented house owned by professional Brazilian mixed-martial-arts fighter Jose Aldo, where he is expected to stay for at least a month, about 150 miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach.
He is also in Florida — a safe haven for Brazilian conservatives — as he waits out five criminal investigations back home and to see if President Lula is going to advance the investigations now that he is in power.
Among the alleged criminal acts, one is about his release of documents related to a classified investigation. Another focuses on his public outbursts on voting machines, in addition to one diving into his alleged connections to “digital militias” that spread misinformation on his behalf, particularly during the election.
The former President did however condemn the attacks from his supporters on Twitter.
“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.
“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,” he added.
President Joe Biden was also one of the first world leaders to respond to the attacks, before even Bolsonaro.
“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. I look forward to continuing to work with @LulaOficial,” Biden tweeted.
Lula has also not been quiet in the wake of the attacks. He, along with leaders of both houses of Congress and the chief justice of the Supreme Court issued a very rare joint statement on Monday, Jan. 9, condemning the violent actions, and on Monday, it was announced that authorities would be doing a sweeping probe as a result to find the culprits.
The probe has already resulted in the suspension of Alexandre de Moraes, a prominent Brazilian Supreme Court justice and of Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of the district that includes Brasilía, for 90 days while investigations are conducted into the security failings that allowed thousands to ransack government buildings on Sunday.
More than 1,200 individuals have been detained as of Monday morning, Jan. 9, and according to the country’s health secretary, many of the over 70 injured were police and journalists. Also, among the mobs was Bolsonaro’s nephew, Leonardo Rodrigues de Jesus — known as "Leo Indio.”
Lula put all blame on the former President in a tweet Sunday afternoon.
“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. And this is also his responsibility and the parties that supported him,” Lula tweeted.
And of course Bolsonaro responded.
“I repudiate the accusations, without evidence, attributed to me by the current head of the executive of Brazil,” Bolsonaro tweeted.
Sunday’s attack was all too similar to Jan. 6, 2021. A violent day to never be forgotten, nor repeated, but history has a way of repeating itself, as if telling the public how man is so incapable of learning from their mistakes.
As the German philosopher Karl Marx once said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”