• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Brazil protests: Bolsonaro supporters storm congress, attack police

A single Brazilian police officer and his horse are surrounded by angry protesters outside the country’s Congress. They shout in his direction before suddenly the scene turns deadly; the officer is pulled from his horse and beaten with sticks.

This is just one ugly example of the escalating violence surrounding the election of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

A journalist on the ground has made a prediction about where the protests are going. Carlos de Souza from newspaper Correio Braziliense told the BBC that the situation is eerily similar to the deadly riots on January 6 at the US Capitol.

He said police are “losing control”.

“The local police, they were standing by those people in the sense that they were watching, observing, guiding those people in a peaceful way,” he said.

“But in a certain moment, things became uncontrollable and the crowd literally invaded the parliament.

“It’s people who do not accept the rules of democracy. They don’t accept elections, they don’t accept the rule of the law.”

What happens next is a matter of time but protesters have been clear about their intentions.

As they flooded into the seat of power in Brasilia, invading the floor of Congress and scaling the iconic building’s roof, they unfurled a banner with an appeal to Brazil’s military: “INTERVENTION.”

While his supporters carry out violent attacks on police, ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has been spotted strolling through a supermarket in Orlando.

Social media footage of the chaotic scenes on Sunday showed rioters breaking doors and windows to enter the Congress building, then streaming inside en masse, trashing politicians’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the floor of the legislature as a slide as they shouted insults directed at the absent politicians.

The protesters held a barricade to keep police back and clear the way for more protesters to enter as they built more barricades with chairs. Some raised the flag of the Empire of Brazil above Congress.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva addressed the protests in a live televised speech, declaring federal security intervention until the end of January to bring order to the capital.

He said he could “call these people fascists, fanatics” and labelled the protests “barbarism”.

President Joe Biden assailed Sunday’s attacks by supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil as “outrageous” as condemnation poured in from around the world against mobs that smashed their way into the halls of power in Brasilia.

That one word comment from Biden was his first direct public comment since crowds broke into Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace in Brasilia to protest the far-right incumbent’s removal from power after losing his election against leftist challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

As part of an outpouring of support for Lula after the stunning scenes in Brazil’s capital, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez assailed the “coup attempt” by supporters of Bolsonaro.

Fellow South American leaders in Chile, Colombia and Venezuela deplored the mob action, and French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his support for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the leftist who took office as Brazil’s leader a week ago.

“The will of the Brazilian people and the democratic institutions must be respected!” Mr Macron tweeted.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that Biden “is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering”. Brazil’s democracy, he added, “will not be shaken by violence”.

The European Union’s top foreign affairs official, Josep Borrell, tweeted that he was “appalled by the acts of violence and illegal occupation of Brasilia’s government quarter by violent extremists today …

“Brazilian democracy will prevail over violence and extremism,” he added.

The Twitter account of Democrats on the US Senate foreign relations committee noted that the Brasilia ransacking came nearly two years to the day after supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election, leaving five dead.

“Trump’s legacy continues to poison our hemisphere,” the tweet said.

Around the Western hemisphere, reaction was particularly swift from leaders ideologically akin to Lula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tweeted: “Lula is not alone, he has the support of the progressive forces of his country, of Mexico, of the American continent and of the world.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric branded the violence a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy” and said the Lula government had Chile’s “complete backing”.

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, a leftist authoritarian, condemned what he called the “neofascist groups” seeking to unseat Lula.

More condemnation came in from across Latin America.

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel offered solidarity and condemned what he described as anti-democratic acts aimed at “generating chaos and disrespecting the popular will”.

Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta said the events showed that Latin America faced a challenge of “defending our democracies by preventing the triumph of hate speech … fratricidal violence and anti-democratic actions”.

– With AFP

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