Brazil’s far-right insurgency stood no chance from the start, but it showed just how hard it would be to survive Bolsonaro’s devastation.

Brazil ; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; Jair Bolsonaro;

2023-01-09 19:59:00

Failed coup attempt.

Sunday’s events in Brazil show what a devastating blow Donald Trump’s presidency has been to democracy around the world. Whereas the United States attempted to export democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan two decades ago with little success, this time the Trumpists have succeeded in bringing illiberal idealism abroad. Two years and two days after members of Trump stormed the US Congress on the grounds that, like their symbol, they “rigged” the results of the US presidential elections, this time the supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, who failed in the October presidential elections, copied the far-right action of the United States. True, they destroyed not only the building of Parliament and the National Congress, but also the seat of the Supreme Court and government, the Planalto Palace. According to the police, at least 300 people were arrested, and several police officers were seriously injured.

The winner of the Brazilian presidential election at the end of October, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was not present because he was visiting Sao Paulo, clearly accused his predecessor of incitement. The left-wing president called the crowd fascists and terrorists, and the “rebels” rioted in the shirt of the Brazilian national team.

The goal was also to divide society. Bolsonaro’s policy was originally based on the exclusion of a part of society, and the “success” of his strategy was also demonstrated in the presidential elections, which were a sad sight for a country that had become completely divided.

“What they did today was unprecedented in the history of the country,” said President Lula. “This was barbarism on the part of the fascists,” he said in his first speech. “They must be found and punished.” The left-wing politician previously ruled Brazil between 2003 and 2010, and the far-right staged a revolt against him a week after his inauguration.

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the government district. The aforementioned three buildings are located close to each other, in the heart of the capital, Brasília, around the Square of the Three Powers. But the illegal “revolution” raises a number of questions. By all indications, the police were caught off guard by the riots, while it had long been known that supporters of the ex-president were preparing something. For several days, Bolsonaro’s supporters camped out in front of the headquarters of the armed forces. When on Saturday and Sunday another 4,000 supporters of the former president arrived in the capital by bus and marched to the government district, they were even accompanied by police officers. Homeland Security officers took selfies with the protesters and recorded videos with their mobile phones, as if they were genuinely enjoying what they were seeing.

Despite all the ominous signs, only a few policemen were deployed to protect public buildings. The new Minister of Justice, Flavio Dino, ordered the soldiers of the National Intervention Force “Força Nacional” to be deployed to protect the buildings on January 7, 8 and 9, but according to media reports there were only 100 at the site. Bolsonaro’s supporters have had no problem removing the barricades.

(According to media reports, Bolsonaro’s lawyers advised him to go to the United States and leave Brazil. That way, he could not be held responsible in his country for the riots by his supporters.)

It is common for the ISF to be ill-equipped that when demonstrators stormed the conference, only a few policemen resisted. Tear gas and pepper spray were used against the attackers. However, according to eyewitnesses, some law enforcement officers did not intervene, but filmed the coup attempt with their mobile phones. However, the attackers managed to enter the Congress building almost undisturbed. Then the crowd attacked the presidential palace opposite the Congress, while another group stormed the Supreme Court building.

But it seems that the extremists hoped to overthrow Lula with the help of the police. Although this did not succeed, the events point to a dangerous truth: some members of Brazil’s security apparatus are among Bolsonaro’s most loyal supporters. Even as a member of Congress, the populist politician acted as an advocate for Homeland Security personnel, demanding better working conditions and higher salaries for them. Already after Bolsonaro’s defeat at the end of October, there were worrying signs. At that time, the Highway Police refused to disperse the demonstrators against Lula’s victory, and did not prevent them from setting up roadblocks on the main highways. Moreover, some officers openly supported illegal demonstrations against the new government. The so-called National Intervention Forces are also commanded by a soldier who is personally close to Bolsonaro.

The fact that the governor of the metropolitan area, Ibáñez Rocha, is a political ally of Bolsonaro also had a serious role to play in the events. The police are under this area, and Rocha has clearly done nothing to stop the action of the far right. Members of Lula’s government also blamed Governor Rocha for the riots. In response to the criticism, the governor fired the district’s chief of security, Anderson Torres, who, like Bolsonaro, is also in Florida. The latter held the post of Minister of Justice and Public Security under the far-right politician. By the way, Torres pretended that he had nothing to do with the rebellion, declaring that “criminals do not go unpunished.”

Ibáñez Rocha’s delay had serious political consequences. Superior Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes ordered Ibanez suspended for 90 days.

After the police apparently did not intervene, Lula ordered that the central government exercise authority over the police until 31 January. After that, the rebellion was put down relatively quickly.

Bolsonaro’s deportation will be easier

In his first reaction, Bolsonaro distanced himself from what had happened, though only after it became clear the police would crush the measure: “Peaceful demonstrations are part of democracy. Looting and assaults on public buildings, like the one that happened today, You don’t belong here,” the former head of state wrote on Twitter. “During my tenure, I have always followed the constitution, respected and defended laws, democracy, transparency and our sacred freedom,” he said, rejecting accusations that he had incited mobs. Bolsonaro’s party also condemned the attacks.

The leader of the ruling Labor Party, Gleesee Hoffman, has made serious accusations against the D.C. “The local leadership acted irresponsibly,” Hoffman wrote on Twitter. Hoffman continued, “This was an avowed crime against democracy, it was against the will of the voters. The governor and his security minister, who is a supporter of Bolsonaro, are responsible for everything that happens.”

A series of heads of state and government around the world have condemned the attack on democracy. US President Joe Biden called the incident “outrageous” during his visit to Texas on Sunday. “Our support for Brazilian democratic institutions is unwavering,” said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, condemned Brazil’s “action against democratic institutions” in the strongest possible terms. Lula affirmed his “full support”. Josep Borrell, European Union foreign affairs representative, expressed his indignation at the actions of the “violent extremists”. Latin American leaders, including those of Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Mexico, were quick to respond and unanimously support the current Brazilian administration. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Lula also reiterated his support.

US Democratic Party representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joaquin Castro called for Bolsonaro’s expulsion from the United States in a Twitter post. According to Gustavo Ferraz de Campos Monaco, professor of private international law at the University of the South Pacific School of Law, there are two ways an American politician could be forced to leave: he could be deported or extradited to Brazil. According to Monaco, extradition must first be requested by the Brazilian judiciary, and that request must be sent to the United States by the federal government. Either Washington accepts this or it does not. However, all this can only be achieved if a separate agreement is reached on this issue between the two countries concerned. An example of the complexity of extradition is the case of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006). Even the US justice system agreed to extradite those accused of corruption, but he was allowed to remain in the country. Deportation is a simpler legal mechanism because it is based solely on the United States and does not need to be preceded by any legal process.

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