Over 400 arrested after Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s Congress


Supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro invade Planalto Presidential Palace while clashing with security forces in Brasilia on January 8, 2023.

Sergio Lima | Afp | Getty Images

World leaders condemned what they described as a “cowardly and vile” attack after thousands of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro invaded the country’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace.

On an extraordinary day of political violence, rioters on Sunday ransacked Brazil’s three branches of power as part of a failed attempt to overthrow President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s week-old government.

Observers of the attack swiftly drew comparisons between the chaos in Brasilia and the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump two years ago.

Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they raid the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, 08 January 2023.

Joedson Alves | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Brazil’s security forces have regained control of the country’s political institutions and Brasilia governor Ibaneis Rocha said more than 400 people had been arrested as of Sunday evening. Rocha — an ally of Bolsonaro — was later suspended from his post for security failings.

Lula sealed a remarkable return to Brazil’s presidency late last year, securing 50.9% of the runoff vote to defeat far-right incumbent Bolsonaro.

Many of Bolsonaro’s supporters refused to accept the result, however, and political analysts have long feared a U.S.-style attack on the country’s prominent government buildings.

Lula blamed Bolsonaro for “encouraging” the riots, saying there were several speeches by the former president to incite Sunday’s attack.

Bolsnaro rejected the accusation and said what happened on Sunday went beyond peaceful democratic protest.

World leaders, including some of Brazil’s regional neighbors, condemned Sunday’s attack on Brazil’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace and reaffirmed their support for Lula’s administration.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a ministerial meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil January 6, 2023. 

Adriano Machado | Reuters

“I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” U.S. President Joe Biden said via Twitter. “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.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric described the attack on Brazil’s institutions as a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy.”

Lula’s response to attack on Brazil's Congress will be crucial, political analyst says

Meanwhile, Colombian President Gustavo Petro offered solidarity to Lula and the people of Brazil, saying “fascism decides to strike.”

Petro called for an urgent meeting of the Organization of American States, “if it wants to continue to live as an institution and apply the democratic charter.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Canada strongly condemns the violent behaviour on display there today, and we reaffirm our support for President @LulaOficial and Brazil’s democratic institutions.”

A ‘stark difference’ to U.S. Capitol attack

Jimena Blanco, head of Americas at Verisk Maplecroft, said there were many similarities between the attack on strategic sites in Brazil’s capital and the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol in 2021 — “and the movements of former President Donald Trump and former President Bolsonaro.”

Members of the Federal Legislative Police stand next a vehicle that crashed into a fountain as supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro invade the National Congress in Brasilia on January 8, 2023.

Sergio Lima | AFP | Getty Images

“But there is a stark difference here,” Blanco told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Monday. “And that is the events in the United States happened before the new government took office whereas, in Brazil, we have a new government that was sworn in over a week ago and so it is institutionally a very different situation.”

“Now, we do have a very fractured country,” she continued. “The question now is whether President Lula da Silva is able to deliver on his promise upon taking office that he would be able to unify Brazil.”

Blanco said Lula’s response in the coming days “will be crucial in that respect.”

Lula was jailed in 2017 in a sweeping graft investigation following a two-term 2003-2010 presidency. The 77-year-old former metalworker was released in 2019 and his criminal convictions were later annulled, paving the way for him to seek a return to office.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro challenged the election he lost in October to leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and is arguing that votes from some machines should be “invalidated” in a complaint that election authorities met with initial skepticism.

Evaristo Sa | AFP | Getty Images

In the U.S., some Democratic lawmakers called for Bolsonaro’s extradition back to Brazil. Bolsonaro flew out of Brazil shortly before Lula’s inauguration and has been residing in Florida.

Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said, “Bolsonaro must not be given refuge in Florida, where he’s been hiding from accountability for his crimes.”

Castro said he stood in support of Lula’s democratically elected government, adding that “domestic terrorists and fascists cannot be allowed to use Trump’s playbook to undermine democracy.”

“Nearly 2 years to the day the US Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad attempt to do the same in Brazil,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said via Twitter.

“We must stand in solidarity with @LulaOficial’s democratically elected government. The US must cease granting refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

Correction: Justin Trudeau is prime minister of Canada. An earlier version misstated his title.

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