Rioters have stormed and vandalized Brazil’s Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court – in a sharp echo of the US Capitol riots two years ago by fans of former President Donald Trump.
The uprising, which lasted just three hours, marked the intense polarization that still grips the country.
It comes days after the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who Defeated Jair Bolsonaro in October elections. In one of the tightest presidential races, with just 50.9% of the vote.
It also made Mr Bolsonaro the first Brazilian president to lose his bid for re-election.
Brazil’s current president, known as Lula, on Sunday called the vandals “obsessed fascists” who had “done something that has never been done in the history of this country”.
Speaking at a news conference during an official visit to Sao Paulo state, he added: “All those who have done this will be found and punished.”
Who is protesting and why are they protesting?
The protesters are far-right supporters of Mr Bolsonaro, who disputed Lula’s election victory on October 30, 2022.
Lula was previously Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2011 but defeated Mr Bolsonaro in a run-off vote last year.
Shortly after the election results, Bolsonaro’s supporters began gathering outside military bases across Brazil for the first time, calling for military intervention to prevent Lula from returning to office.
In the following days, truckers were among Bolsonaro’s supporters who blocked roads across the country following his defeat.
In November, Bolsonaro’s supporters held rallies across the country, calling for the intervention of the armed forces.
Defying a recent Supreme Court order to vacate streets and public spaces, Brazilians gathered outside a regional military facility to denounce what they described as unfair or stolen elections.
Many protesters were expecting a Defense Ministry report, which Mr. Bolsonaro has sought to include in election monitoring, to confirm their claims.
The document, published in November, proposed improvements to Brazil’s electoral system to address some flaws, but found no evidence of fraud.
Dominguez Carvalho, 63, who protested for 15 straight days, told the AP news agency: “I am fighting for my country, for my daughter and three grandchildren.”
He added that he sometimes kneels in front of the military building and prays. “I will stay here as long as necessary,” he said. We are peaceful but we will never leave our country in the hands of communists.
What sparked the rallies?
On November 22, Mr. Bolsonaro challenged the results of Brazil’s election and argued that votes from some machines should be “nullified” in a complaint that was later dismissed by election officials.
Although the Bolsonaro administration has not directly opposed the transfer of power, the far-right leader has yet to acknowledge or congratulate his opponent.
His supporters have taken the hint – and are refusing to accept the outcome.
“This election was not fair,” said 51-year-old businessman Anselmo do Nasmiento. Supreme Court should be neutral.
In December, Lula’s election victory was confirmed by the Federal Electoral Court.
Later that day, Bolsonaro supporters attempted to storm federal police headquarters in the capital Brasília, leading to the arrest of a local pro-Bolsonaro leader for alleged anti-democratic actions.
Protesters have also condemned the closure of pro-Bolsonaro accounts and groups on social media platforms – calling it tantamount to censorship.
The build up to the January 8 riots
On Christmas Eve, a man named Jorge Washington de Oliveira Sousa was arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb at a protest against Brazil’s election results. A transcript of his police statement shows he was inspired to build a weapon by Mr Bolsonaro’s traditional support for arming citizens.
And on December 29, Brazilian police arrested at least four people for an alleged coup attempt during riots by Bolsonaro supporters.
It was Lola. He was sworn in as President for the first time on January 1where he said democracy was the real winner in the presidential election – but he takes the reins of a polarized Brazil.
However, this was not always the case. When he retired in 2011, it was with an 83% approval rating. A series of scandals led to his imprisonment on corruption charges that were later overturned.
It was the last event before Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the Brasilia capitol on January 8.
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