Thousands of radical backers of Brazil’s far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro breached and vandalized the presidential office building, congress and the Supreme Court on Sunday, and sought to enter other halls of power, in scenes that hauntingly evoked the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
The attack came a week after the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in a runoff election in October.
Images on Globo TV showed protesters roaming the halls and standing near smashed glass cases in the Planalto Palace, the office of the president. Thousands of others wearing the national soccer shirt — now a symbol of the far right — and waving the Brazilian flag milled about the massive square outside in a part of the Brasilia capital that is similar to Washington’s National Mall.
“This absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail,” Lula’s justice minister Flavio Dino tweeted shortly after the invasion began around 2:30 p.m. local time. “The Government of the Federal District claims that there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work. I’m at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice.”
The incident captured the uncanny parallels between Bolsonaro and his political lodestar, Trump, and came after months in which pundits have feared a Jan. 6 style copycat action here.
In a manner similar to Trump, Bolsonaro has fueled discontent among his base since his loss to the newly-inaugurated leftist, stepping down while refusing to officially concede.
Thousands of Bolsonaristas have camped out at military headquarters across Latin America’s largest country, demanding military intervention to reinstate Bolsonaro, who last week flew to Florida instead of attending a ceremony in the capital of Brasilia where outgoing presidents traditionally hand over the sash of power.
Military police officers attempted to stop the demonstrators with tear gas and other weapons but appeared far outnumbered. The group is inside the Palácio do Planalto, the official building where the president works.
The Congress and Supreme Court are both in recess, so lawmakers and judges are not there.
Lula was not in Brasília today, as he was in a São Paulo countryside. He had planned to return to Brasília by the end of afternoon.
The good news is that President Lula de Silva, Brazil's Congress, and Brazil's Supreme Court are not in the capital of Brasilia today. That's also the bad news. Bolsonaro has fled to Orlando to avoid prosecution and needs to be kindly returned. Meanwhile, Lula has called in the national army to deal with the protesters.
We'll see where this goes, but this is a scary moment for South America's largest democracy...and it echoes too closely our own failures in dealing with our own "Bolsonaristas" like, you know, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who have been trying to foment this kind of terrorism in Brazil for months now, and it looks like they have succeeded.