Who are the rioters who stormed Brazil’s government buildings?

Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the nation’s presidential palace on Sunday in the first crisis of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s new presidency. They have asked Lula to resign and called on the military to launch a coup d’état.

Who are the protesters?

Bolsonaro’s populist movement has long relied on radical, highly mobilized supporters who flock to rallies and events in large numbers. They were a mainstay of his presidency between 2019 and last year, and also protested in large numbers after his defeat by Lula in October’s election.

In the days following the vote, many pro-Bolsonaro truckers blocked highways across the country, which quickly created problems in the supply chain and at one point forced the closure of Brazil’s main international airport. These uncompromising supporters are nationalist, socially conservative, and often evangelical Christians. They accuse Lula and his Labor Party of being corrupt and violating family values, and claim that the left wants to bring socialism to Brazil.

What do you think?

More than a year before the election, Bolsonaro questioned the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting machines without providing serious evidence to support his claims. The electoral authorities have repeatedly demonstrated the integrity of the system and the election was deemed fair and transparent by international observers.

Although Bolsonaro was careful not to openly question the election results in the days following the vote, his supporters have claimed – without evidence – that the election was rigged. They also accuse top judges of showing political bias in Lula’s favor and call crackdown on social media misinformation censorship. Since the election, hundreds across the country have camped outside military bases, calling on the armed forces to intervene to thwart Lula’s presidency.

“The armed forces must step in and reset Bolsonaro to rule the country and continue his great work,” Alexandra Morais, a woman in her 60s, said at a demonstration outside an army barracks in the city of Belo Horizonte last year. “70 to 80 percent of Brazilians want that, but the election was fake.”

Despite tense tension ahead of Lula’s inauguration, including the discovery of a suspected bomb in Brasília, few turned up to protest at last week’s inauguration ceremony.

What does Bolsonaro say?

Two days after his election defeat, Bolsonaro remained silent. Then, in a very brief statement, he quietly offered his support to radical protesters who were blocking highways and gathering in front of army bases. “The current popular movements are the result of outrage and a sense of injustice at how the electoral process has unfolded,” Bolsonaro said at the time.

In the final months of his presidency, he allowed protesters to continue occupying areas outside army bases, despite calling for military intervention to prevent Lula’s inauguration.

Bolsonaro has never openly admitted. His political party sued to overturn the findings, but was quickly dismissed by a court.

In a sign of intense bitterness between Lula and Bolsonaro, the right-wing populist broke with tradition by refusing to attend the swearing-in ceremony for the presidential sash. Instead, he traveled to Florida, where he was spotted eating fast food last week. Bolsonaro is yet to comment on Sunday’s incidents, but he is likely to face criticism from opponents for contributing to a polarized atmosphere and hostility toward Brazil’s institutions, including the Supreme Court.

Following Sunday’s events, many have also criticized Brasília’s governor, Ibaneis Rocha, and his security minister, Anderson Torres. Both are considered close to the former president and have established light contact with his supporters. On Sunday evening, Reuters reported that Brazil’s Attorney General had requested Torres’ arrest.

What’s happening now?

Lula took power with a promise to unite the country after the divisive election. The attacks should make him take tougher action against right-wing extremism. Visibly shocked, the President called the demonstrators on Sunday “vandals and fascists” who “must be punished”. Flavio Dino, Brazil’s new justice minister, wanted to crack down even before the attacks on Congress. He will likely push for law enforcement and a program to eradicate extremism.

https://www.ft.com/content/6e5b9478-c9f2-4df2-a4fb-339411f41c38 Who are the rioters who stormed Brazil’s government buildings?

Adam Bradshaw

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