Monday May 29th, 2023 12:15PM

Brazil authorities seek to punish pro-Bolsonaro rioters

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian authorities were vowing to protect democracy and preparing to mete out punishment Monday after thousands of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace then trashed the nation’s highest seats of power.

The protesters were seeking military intervention to either restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power or oust the newly inaugurated leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, unleashing chaos and destruction that bore striking similarities to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Rioters donning the green and yellow of the national flag on Sunday broke windows, toppled furniture, hurled computers and printers to the ground. They punctured a massive Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting in five places, overturned the U-shaped table at which Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice's office and vandalized an iconic statue outside the court. The monumental buildings' interiors were left in states of ruin.

Authorities made a point to show that they were moving to prevent further attacks on Brazil's democratic rule of law.

In a news conference late Sunday, Brazil's minister of institutional relations said the buildings would be inspected for evidence including fingerprints and images to hold people to account, and that the rioters apparently intended to spark similar such actions nationwide. Justice Minister Flávio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and coup-mongering and that police have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital.

“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” Dino said. “We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”

So far, more than 1,200 people have been detained, the justice ministry’s press office said Monday. But police were noticeably slow to react - even after the arrival of more than 100 busses - leading many to ponder whether authorities had either simply ignored numerous warnings, underestimated the protesters' strength or had been somehow complicit.

Public prosecutors in the capital said local security forces had at very least been negligent while a supreme court justice temporarily suspended the regional governor. Another justice blamed authorities for not swiftly cracking down on Brazil’s budding neofascism, adding that they will be held criminally responsible.

In the months that followed Bolsonaro’s Oct. 30 electoral defeat, Brazil was on edge – leery of any avenue he might pursue to cling to power. Bolsonaro had been stoking belief among his hardcore supporters that the electronic voting system was prone to fraud — though he never presented any evidence. And his lawmaker son Eduardo Bolsonaro held several meetings with former U.S. President Donald Trump, Trump's longtime ally Steve Bannon and his senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller.

Results from Brazil's election — the closest in over three decades — were quickly recognized by politicians across the spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies, as well as dozens of governments. And Bolsonaro surprised nearly everyone by promptly fading from view. He neither conceded defeat nor emphatically cried fraud, though he and his party submitted a request to nullify millions of votes that was swiftly dismissed.

Brazilians have used electronic voting since 1996 that security experts consider less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. Brazil’s system is, however, closely scrutinized and domestic authorities and international observers have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.

Still, Bolsonaro's supporters refused to accept the results. They blocked roads and have remained camped outside military buildings, urging the armed forces to intervene. Dino, the justice minister, referred to the encampments as incubators of terrorism. Protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, but isolated isolated threats — including a bomb found on a fuel truck headed to Brasilia’s airport — had prompted security concerns.

Two days before Lula's Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro flew to the U.S. and took up temporary residence in Orlando. Many Brazilians expressed relief that, while he declined to participate in the transition of power, his absence allowed it to occur without incident.

Or so it had been, until Sunday's havoc.

“Bolsonarism mimics the same strategies as Trumpism. Our Jan. 8 — an unprecedented manifestation in Brazilian politics — is clearly copied from Jan. 6 in the Capitol,” said Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia. “Today’s sad episodes represent yet another attempt to destabilize democracy and demonstrate that the authoritarian, populist radicalism of Brazil's extreme right remains active under the command of former President Bolsonaro, the ‘Trump of Latin America.'”

U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted that the riots were an “assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” and that he looked forward to continue working with Lula.

In a news conference from Sao Paulo state, Lula read a freshly signed decree for the federal government to assume control of security in the federal district. He said that the so-called “fascist fanatics,” as well as those who financed their activities, must be punished, and also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging their uprising.

Bolsonaro repudiated the president's accusation late Sunday. Writing on Twitter, he said peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are “exceptions to the rule.” He made no specific mention of the protesters' actions in Brasilia.

“He is evidently the intellectual mentor of what is happening, so he cannot dissociate from it,” said Mario Sérgio Lima, political analyst at Medley Advisors. “These groups were created by him, by the radicalism he imposed on politics. There is no way to undo that. ... It seems his group has already crossed the Rubicon.”

Unlike the 2021 attack in the U.S., few officials would have been working in the top government buildings on a Sunday. And videos showed limited presence of the capital’s military police.

One video showed one group of protesters easily pushing through a police barricade with only a few officers using pepper spray. Another showed officers standing by as protesters stormed the Congress, including one using his phone to record what was happening.

“This was a gross error by the federal district's government. It was a tragedy foretold,” said Thiago de Aragão, director of strategy at Brasilia-based politican consultancy Arko Advice. “Everyone knew they (the protesters) were coming to Brasilia. The expectation was that the federal district's government was going to mount a response to protect the capital. They didn't do any of that."

Lula said at his news conference there was “incompetence or bad faith" on the part of police, and he promised some would be punished.

Federal District Gov. Ibaneis Rocha confirmed on Twitter he had fired the capital city’s head of public security, Anderson Torres. Local media reported that Torres is in Orlando for vacation, and that he denied having met with Bolsonaro there.

Soon after, Brazil's Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered Rocha removed from his position as governor for 90 days. He wrote in his decision that the day's events could only have transpired “with the consent, and even effective participation, of the competent public security and intelligence authorities,” and called Rocha's actions “intentionally omissive.”

“Two years since Jan. 6, Trump’s legacy continues to poison our hemisphere,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee, tweeted, adding that he blamed Bolsonaro for inciting the acts. “Protecting democracy & holding malign actors to account is essential.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2023 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Democratic Kansas Gov. Kelly to start 2nd term; Kobach is AG
Democrat Laura Kelly is preparing to be sworn in for a second term as Kansas governor
12:07AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Brazil authorities seek to punish pro-Bolsonaro rioters
Brazilian authorities were picking up pieces and investigating after thousands of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace then trashed the nation’s highest seats of power
12:01AM ( 19 minutes ago )
NFL playoffs: Seahawks are in field after Lions stun Packers
The NFL’s Week 18 saved its best drama for the final game of the weekend
11:58PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
California hit by more storms, braces for potential floods
California was hit with more turbulent weather as thunderstorms, snow and damaging winds swept into the northern part the state
10:09PM ( 2 hours ago )
Golden Globes are back on TV, but are reform efforts enough?
A year after their mighty fall, the battered, 80-year-old Golden Globes are back on NBC
9:37PM ( 2 hours ago )
Hamlin in their hearts, the NFL pays tribute to No. 3
Players and fans across the NFL paid tribute to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Sunday, the first time most across the league resumed playing since his terrifying cardiac arrest during a game last week
9:20PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Adam Rich, former 'Eight Is Enough' child star, dies at 54
Adam Rich, the cute child actor who charmed TV audiences in the late 1970s as Nicholas Bradford on “Eight is Enough," has died
7:06PM ( 5 hours ago )
Bills win for Hamlin and eliminate Patriots from playoffs
Nyheim Hines ignited an emotionally charged atmosphere celebrating injured Bills safety Damar Hamlin by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Buffalo clinched the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed with a 35-23 win over the New England Patriots
6:54PM ( 5 hours ago )
Biden walks stretch of US-Mexico border, amid GOP criticism
President Joe Biden has walked a muddy stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and inspected a busy port of entry in his first trip to the region
6:07PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online National News
40 people killed, dozens injured in bus crash in Senegal
Senegal's president says two buses have collided head-on in the center of the country and that at least 40 people were killed and dozens of others were injured
2:22PM ( 9 hours ago )
Russia claims deadly attack, but Kyiv denies anyone killed
The Russian military claims to have carried out deadly missile strikes on Ukrainian troops, but Ukrainian officials deny there were any casualties
2:04PM ( 10 hours ago )
Israel revokes Palestinian FM's travel permit over UN move
The Palestinian foreign minister says Israel has revoked his travel permit, part of a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians that Israel’s new hard-line government announced days ago
12:54PM ( 11 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Democratic Kansas Gov. Kelly to start 2nd term; Kobach is AG
Democrat Laura Kelly is preparing to be sworn in for a second term as Kansas governor
12:07AM ( 13 minutes ago )
NFL playoffs: Seahawks are in field after Lions stun Packers
The NFL’s Week 18 saved its best drama for the final game of the weekend
11:58PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Dolphins clinch playoff berth after beating Jets 11-6
Jason Sanders kicked a go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and helped send the Miami Dolphins to their first playoff berth since 2016 after barely squeaking by the New York Jets 11-6
11:57PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Rodgers, Packers lose 20-16 to Lions, miss playoffs
Aaron Rodgers threw a late interception on the final pass of what might be his last game, and the Green Bay Packers lost 20-16 to the Detroit Lions to miss the playoffs
11:50PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Young scores 30, Hawks rally to beat reeling Clips 112-108
Trae Young scored 30 points and the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Clippers 112-108
11:38PM ( 43 minutes ago )