Brazilian security forces locked down the area around the Brazilian Congress, the presidential palace and the Brazilian Supreme Court yesterday, a day after supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the seat of power in riots that triggered an international outcry.
In stunning scenes reminiscent of the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the US Capitol building by supporters of then-US president Donald Trump, backers of Bolsonaro broke through police cordons and overran the seats of power in Brasilia, smashing windows and doors, and ransacking offices.
Initially overwhelmed security forces used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to fight back the rioters until they were finally subdued.
Newly inaugurated Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the veteran leftist who narrowly won Brazil’s bitter, divisive October elections, condemned the invasions as a “fascist” attack.
Meanwhile, the far-right Bolsonaro condemned “pillaging and invasions of public buildings” in a Twitter post.
However, he rejected Lula’s claim that he incited the attacks.
Lula, who was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting a region hit by severe floods, signed a decree declaring a federal intervention in Brasilia, giving his government special powers over the local police force to restore law and order in the capital.
“These fascist fanatics have done something never before seen in this country’s history,” said Lula, 77, who took office a week ago. “We will find out who these vandals are and they will be brought down with the full force of the law.”
Lula returned to Brasilia and viewed the damage at the presidential palace and the Supreme Court.
He said he would work from the palace yesterday, despite the destruction.
Police have made 170 arrests, media reports said.
TV images showed police ushering Bolsonaro supporters in single file down the ramp from the Planalto presidential palace.
The chaos came after a sea of protesters dressed in military-style camouflage, and the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag flooded into Brasilia’s Three Powers Square, invading the floor of Congress, trashing the Supreme Court building and climbing the ramp to the Planalto.
Social media footage showed rioters breaking doors and windows to enter the Congress building, then streaming inside en masse, trashing lawmakers’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the Senate floor as a slide as they shouted insults directed at the absent lawmakers.
Protesters damaged artworks, historical objects, furniture and decorations as they ran riot through the buildings, Brazilian media reports said.
One video showed a crowd outside pulling a policeman from his horse and beating him to the ground.
Police, who had established a security cordon around the square, fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the rioters — initially to no avail.
A journalists’ union said at least five reporters were attacked, including a photojournalist who was beaten by protesters and had his equipment stolen.
Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside army bases calling for a military intervention to stop Lula from taking power since his election win.
Lula’s government vowed to find and arrest those who planned and financed the attacks.
Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha fired the capital’s public security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
The attorney general’s office said it had asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres “and all other public officials responsible for acts and omissions” leading to the unrest.
It also asked the high court to authorize the use of “all public security forces” to take back federal buildings and disperse anti-government protests nationwide.
Protester Sarah Lima said they were demanding a review of the “fraudulent election.”
Lula narrowly won the runoff by a score of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent. Bolsonaro, who left for Florida on the second-to-last day of his term, has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil’s courts and electoral authorities.
“I’m here for history, for my daughters,” said Lima, 27, wearing the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team -- a symbol Bolsonaro backers have claimed as their own -- and protesting with her young twin daughters.
Fellow protester Rogerio Souza Marcos said the elections had been plagued by “multiple signs of fraud and corruption.”
Newly installed Justice and Public Security Minister Flavio Dino called the invasion “an absurd attempt to impose [the protesters’] will by force.”
“It will not prevail,” he wrote on Twitter.
There was swift international condemnation of the protesters.
The UN said it “vehemently condemns” the attacks.
US President Joe Biden slammed the scenes as “outrageous,” European Council President Charles Michel expressed “absolute condemnation” on Twitter, and French President Emmanuel Macron called for respect for Brazil’s institutions and sent Lula “France’s unwavering support.”
Even Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni condemned the riots.
A raft of Latin American leaders joined in, with Chilean President Gabriel Boric denouncing a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy” and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador calling it a “reprehensible coup attempt.”
WHEELING AND DEALING? Hou You-yi, Ko Wen-je, Eric Chu and Ma Ying-jeou are under investigation for allegedly offering bribes for the other side to drop out of the race Taipei prosecutors have started an investigation into allegations that four top politicians involved in attempts to form a “blue-white” presidential ticket have contravened election regulations. Listed as defendants are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The case stemmed from judicial complaints filed last month with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office alleging that the KMT (blue) and the TPP (white) had engaged in bribery by offering money or other enticements
ELIGIBLE FOR JANUARY: All presidential candidates and their running mates meet the requirements to run for office, and none hold dual citizenship, the CEC said Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Legislator and vice presidential candidate Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) is working with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to resolve issues with her financial disclosure statement, a spokesman for the candidate said yesterday, after the commission published the statements of all three presidential candidates and their running mates, while confirming their eligibility to run in the Jan. 13 election. Wu’s office spokesman, Chen Yu-cheng (陳宥丞), said the candidate encountered unforeseen difficulties disclosing her husband’s finances due to being suddenly thrust into the campaign. She is also the first vice presidential nominee to have a foreign spouse, complicating the reporting of
GOOD NEWS: Although open civic spaces are shrinking in Asia-Pacific countries and territories, Taiwan’s openness is a positive sign, an expert said Taiwan remains the only country in Asia with an “open” civic space for the fifth consecutive year, the Civicus Monitor said in a report released yesterday. The People Power Under Attack 2023 report named Taiwan as one of only 37 open countries or territories out of 198 globally, and the only one in Asia. Compiled by Civicus — a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to bolstering civil action — the ranking compiled annually since 2017 measures the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression around the world. Researchers assign each country or territory one of five rankings describing the
NOT JUST CHIPS: Although semiconductor processes are on the list, it also includes military technology and post-quantum cryptography to combat emerging cyberthreats The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) yesterday released a list of 22 technologies it considers crucial to the nation’s security and competitiveness, including the 14-nanometer semiconductor process and advanced chip packaging. For the first time, the council made a list of core technologies with an aim of preventing secret information about those technologies being leaked to foreign countries, which could put the nation’s security and the competitiveness of local industries at risk. For years, local semiconductor companies have faced challenges from talent poaching and theft of corporate secrets by Chinese competitors, who are seeking to rapidly advance their technology capabilities through