January 8 uprising in Brazil

On 8 January, 2023, supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro went on a rampage in Brazil’s capital, Brasília, storming and trashing the presidential palace, the National Congress, and the Supreme Court buildings. They did this with the apparent complicity of the military police, who stood by and let them; the state governor has also been stood down for his apparent refusal to do anything to try to prevent the attack. The state’s police chief spent the week before the attack “on holiday” in Florida, giving rise to allegations that he conspired with Bolsonaro.

By the evening of 8 January, newly inaugurated president Lula da Silva signed an executive order for the federal authorities to come in and restore order in Brasília, and that’s when the military police finally stepped in to clear out (and arrest) the rioters. As of January 12, over 1,200 people were being held in custody, facing charges of “invading the capitol and property destruction”, with the authorities saying more arrests were likely. Right-wing protests broke out in other cities too, including blockades of streets in São Paulo.

The rioters in Brasília were largely not residents of the city, but had come in from all around the country. Brazil is now investigating the bus companies that transported the rioters there, and is considering laying charges. It seems that their goal was to force the Brazilian military to step in and restore Bolsonaro to power (this in a country which has an awful history of military dictatorship).

Not the whole Brazilian Right supported the riot, and there are now some (optimistically?) saying that the event has caused a rift between right-wingers who support democracy vs the right-wingers like those who participated in the riot, who don’t. That said, there are other right-wing leaders (like Bolsonaro’s former VP, now a state senator for Rio Grande do Sul) who, while they claim not to support the rampage, have been pretty damn vocal opposing the prosecutions of the rioters. And others still have made the bizarre claim that Lula da Silva should be impeached for “allowing the riot to happen” 🤨

The events of 8 January have drawn comparisons to the similar far-right January 6 uprising in the USA, where supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a refusal to accept he’d lost the 2020 election. Brazil, however, is generally perceived to have responded better (so far), given that as mentioned it’s suspended officials who are thought to have been complicit or at least indifferent to the attack, and actual thorough investigations are being conducted. I’ve also seen the comment that the rampage in Brazil was more an expression of “impotent rage”, given the apparent lack of military enthusiasm to enact a coup, while the US uprising had more of a coherent plan (not to mention that it occurred on a day when lawmakers were actually at the Congress building, unlike Brazil’s riot which happened on a weekend) and should therefore be considered more terrifying.

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