Lula government has yet to regain control of the military
They were protesting against that Inauguration of the left president. They believe the elections are rigged and call for a military coup to remove Lula from office.
In the three hours in which they were able to act largely undisturbed, the protesters left behind traces of destruction: on the Square of the Three Powers they stormed the Senate and the House of Representatives, then the Presidential Palace and finally the seat of the Supreme Court. They tore seats from their anchorages, smashed panes of glass and destroyed computers. They are also said to have stolen weapons.
The radicalized supporters of Bolsonaro met hardly any resistance during their devastation: although it had been known for days that they would protest against the Lula government in Brasília, only a few hundred soldiers from the national intervention force Força Nacional were seconded to protect the buildings. Only a few of them used tear gas or tried to resist the onslaught. Videos have circulated on social media showing security officials having friendly chats with the attackers.
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Only when President Lula relieved the government of the capital district of responsibility for the security apparatus on Sunday afternoon did the police act quickly and were able to protect the buildings again in the early evening. The central government in Brasília is now in charge until January 31st.
Brasília governor suspended by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has also suspended Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of Brasília, for three months. Rocha is considered a Bolsonaro ally and had already shown little commitment to prosecuting the criminals during violent riots when Lula was sworn in three weeks ago and an attempted assassination shortly before taking office.
Lula was traveling in the state of São Paulo at the time of the attack. From there he condemned the events. The attackers are “terrorists and fascists” instigated by Bolsonaro. Everyone will be held accountable, said Lula, who visited the devastated government district on Sunday evening.
Bolsonaro then spoke up from Florida. He had Brazil on December 30th – possibly so as not to be held responsible for any excesses by his followers. US politicians are therefore already demanding that the ex-president be expelled in the direction of Brazil.
The right-wing populist, who has completely withdrawn from the public eye since the election defeat, has now declared on Twitter that peaceful demonstrations are part of democracy – but at the same time put it into perspective. “Looting and raids on public buildings, as they took place today, but also during left-wing protests in 2013 and 2017, are not included.”
The storming of the government district is the Lula government’s first severe test: It is obvious that the civilian Defense Minister José Múcio has not yet made any progress in putting the military leaders, who have risen to power under Bolsonaro, in their place. It is also striking that the Presidents of the Senate and House of Representatives did not comment on the riots.
Military openly supports Bolsonaro supporters
How strong the support for ex-captain Bolsonaro is among those in uniform could be seen on Sunday in Brasília: after the riots, the rioters gathered again in front of the garrison of the army high command in Brasília.
They have been camping there in a kind of vigil since the announcement of the election results at the end of October. They obviously enjoy the solidarity of the military.
When the police wanted to storm the camp of Bolsonaro supporters, hundreds of military men with armored vehicles stood between the security forces and the rioters to protect them.
In the past few weeks, there have been arguments in Lula’s cabinet about how the new government should deal with the protests: Justice Minister Flávio Dino called for the camps to be dismantled because they were “breeding nests for terrorists”. But Defense Minister José Múcio Monteiro has so far been able to prevent this. Probably because he didn’t want to provoke an open conflict with the military.
According to media reports, Lula also decided against declaring a state of emergency, because then the military would have been deployed automatically – whose obedience to orders does not seem guaranteed.
High-ranking military officials, some of whom are ex-ministers Bolsonaro, openly approve of the protests and may even support them. Reserve General Walter Braga Netto, Bolsonaro’s former head of the presidential office and his running mate in the election campaign, was still cheering on the protesters via Instagram a few days ago.
The next few hours and days will show whether and how the protests will continue across the country. Roadblocks were renewed in four states. In addition, it was said at times that refineries of the state-owned company Petrobras should be attacked.
More: Brazil’s President Lula is falling into old patterns – and worrying the economy