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Bolsonaro’s supporters ransack the presidential palace, Congress, the Supreme Court of Brazil

Bolsonaro’s supporters ransack the presidential palace, Congress, the Supreme Court of Brazil

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BRASILIA, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Supporters of Brazil’s far-right ex-President Jair Bolsonaro stormed and defaced Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court on Sunday, in a grim echo of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol two years ago by fans of former President Donald Trump.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from their rampage, but the invaders left a trail of destruction, throwing furniture through the broken windows of the presidential palace, flooding parts of Congress with a sprinkler system and ransacking ceremonial rooms at the Supreme Court.

The sight of thousands of yellow and green-clad protesters rioting in the capital brought months of tension to a halt after the Oct. 30 presidential election.

The uprising, which lasted just over three hours, highlighted the severe polarization still gripping the country days after the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who defeated Bolsonaro in October’s election.

“These vandals, who we could call … fanatical fascists, have done what has never been done in the history of this country,” Lula told a news conference during an official visit to Sao Paulo state. “All these people who did this will be found and punished.

Lula, who announced a federal security intervention in Brazil lasting until January 31 after the capital’s security forces were initially defeated by the invaders, accused Bolsonaro of inflaming his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations of potential election fraud.

The president’s allies also raised questions about how public security forces in the capital, Brazil, were so unprepared and easily defeated by rebels who had been planning on social media for days to gather for weekend demonstrations.

LEGAL RISK

Bolsonaro, a Trump aide who has yet to concede defeat, spread the false claim that Brazil’s electronic voting system was prone to fraud, giving birth to violent movement of election deniers.

“This genocist … promotes this through social media from Miami,” Lula said, referring to Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida 48 hours before the end of his term and was absent from Lula’s inauguration. “Everybody knows there are various speeches by the former president promoting this.

Bolsonaro, whose presidency has been marked by divisive nationalist populism, remained silent for nearly six hours on Brazil’s chaos before tweeting that he “rejected” Lula’s accusations against him.

The former president, who has rarely spoken publicly since losing the election, also said peaceful demonstrations were part of democracy, but invading and damaging public buildings “crossed the line”.

Violence in Brazil could increase Bolsonaro’s legal risks persons. It also presents a headache for US officials as they debate how to deal with his stay in Florida. Prominent Democratic lawmakers said the United States could no longer grant Bolsonaro “sanctuary” in the country.

Bolsonaro’s family lawyer, Frédéric Wassef, did not respond to a request for comment.

By 6:30 p.m. local time (2130 GMT), security forces had managed to capture the capital’s three most iconic buildings.

Brazil’s governor, Ibáñez Rocha, a longtime Bolsonaro ally facing tough questions after Sunday’s security lapses, said on Twitter that more than 400 people had been arrested and authorities were working to identify more.

The invasions were condemned by leaders around the world.

US President Joe Biden called the events “an attack on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power”, adding that Brazil’s democratic institutions have the full support of the US.

Away from the capital, Brazilian industries have been on alert for a new wave of unrest by supporters of Bolsonaro, whose post-election highway blockades have disrupted grain supplies and meatpacking operations in recent months.

The state oil company Petrobras enhanced security at its refineries as a precaution after threats to attack assets, including Brazil’s largest fuel plant.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4.SA)as the company is officially known, said in a statement that all its assets and refineries are operating normally.

Analysts warned the unrest could spark more volatility in Brazil’s financial markets, which have swung sharply in recent weeks amid doubts about how Lula will reconcile big spending promises with stretched public finances.

JUDGES CONDEMN “TERRORISTS”

The Supreme Court, whose crusading judge Alexander de Moraes has been a thorn in the side of Bolsonaro and his supporters, was ransacked by the invaders, according to images on social media that showed protesters knocking over security cameras and breaking windows of the modernist building.

Both Moraes and the court’s chief judge, Rosa Weber, promised punishment for the “terrorists” who attacked the country’s democratic institutions. Leaders of both houses of Congress publicly condemned the attacks and advanced plans to fly back to the capital, according to people familiar with the matter.

Rocha, Brazil’s governor, said he had fired his top security official, Anderson Torres, previously Bolsonaro’s justice minister. The attorney general’s office said it has filed a warrant for Torres’ arrest.

Torres told the UOL website that he was with his family on holiday in the United States and had not met Bolsonaro. UOL reported that he was in Orlando, where Bolsonaro is now staying.

On Saturday, amid rumors of a brewing confrontation in Brazil, Justice Minister Flavio Dino authorized the deployment of the National Public Security Force. On Sunday, he tweeted, “this absurd attempt to impose will by force will not prevail.”

In Washington, D.C., in 2021, Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades, and stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Trump, who has announced a third run for president in 2024, has pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify the vote, and he continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.

Reporting by Adriano Machado, Anthony Boadle, Lisandra Paraguasu, Ricardo Brito, Peter Frontini, Gabriel Araujo; Written by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes, Daniel Wallis, Lincoln Feist and Michael Perry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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