Brazilian Chaos: Bolsonaro Loyalists Invade Government Buildings Amid Calls for Military Intervention

On Sunday, January 3, 2021, supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace in an effort to either restore Bolsonaro to power or oust the newly inaugurated President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Thousands of demonstrators bypassed security barricades, climbed on roofs, smashed windows, and invaded all three buildings, which were believed to be largely vacant on the weekend.

In response, President Lula accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the uprising by those he termed “fascist fanatics,” and he signed a decree for the federal government to take control of security in the federal district. Lula also accused the police of incompetence or bad faith and promised to punish and expel those officers from the force.

TV channel Globo News showed protesters wearing the green and yellow colors of the national flag, which have also come to symbolize the nation’s conservative movement and were adopted by Bolsonaro’s supporters. The rioters trashed the room where the Supreme Court justices convene, sprayed fire hoses inside the Congress building, and ransacked offices at the presidential palace. Windows were broken in all of the buildings.

Bolsonaro, who had flown to Florida ahead of Lula’s inauguration, repudiated the president’s accusations and stated that peaceful protests are a part of democracy but vandalism and the invasion of public buildings are exceptions to the rule. Police fired tear gas in their efforts to regain control of the buildings and arrested roughly 200 people.

The incident recalled the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Political analysts had warned for months that a similar event was a possibility in Brazil, as Bolsonaro had sowed doubt about the reliability of the nation’s electronic voting system without any evidence. The results of the election were recognized as legitimate by politicians from across the spectrum, including some of Bolsonaro’s allies, as well as dozens of foreign governments.

Since October 30, 2020, people who voted for Bolsonaro have been protesting Lula’s election win by blocking roads, setting cars on fire, and gathering in front of military buildings to ask the military to step in. The head of Brazil’s election board said no to Bolsonaro and his party’s request to throw out most votes cast on electronic voting machines.

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