A week after the end of the term of office of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, radical supporters of the right-wing ex-military stormed the government district in the capital Brasília.
They broke into Congress, the Supreme Court and the Palácio do Planalto seat of government on Sunday, TV footage showed. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not in Brasília at the time of the attack.
The demonstrators smashed the windows of the facade of the congress building and entered the entrance hall. Videos showed people climbing onto tables and benches in the Senate plenary hall. Hundreds of demonstrators had previously entered the Parliament premises and climbed onto the roof of the building. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades but were unable to stop supporters of former right-wing leader Bolsonaro.
"I condemn these anti-democratic acts that urgently need to be punished with the harshness of the law," Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco wrote on Twitter. "I spoke to the governor of the federal district, Ibaneis Rocha, with whom I am in regular contact. The governor informed me that the entire police force is focused on bringing the situation under control."
The US government condemned the attack. "The United States condemns any attempt to undermine democracy in Brazil," US President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan wrote on Twitter on Sunday. President Biden is monitoring the situation closely. "Our support for Brazil's democratic institutions is unwavering," said Sullivan. Democracy in Brazil will not be shaken by violence.
The scenes were reminiscent of the riots at the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. At that time, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, where the Republican's election defeat against Joe Biden was to be authenticated. The crowd violently entered the building, five people died.
After the attack on Congress, Bolsonaro supporters also moved to the Supreme Court. The news portal G1 reported that they threw in windows and entered the lobby. During Bolsonaro's tenure, the judges repeatedly put the right-wing head of state in his place and are therefore despised by his supporters.
Lula: "All vandals will be found and punished"
Later, the crowd also moved to the Palácio do Planalto, the seat of government. Men with Brazilian flags walked through hallways and offices, as seen on TV Globo. Head of state Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not in Brasília at the time. He had traveled to the city of Araraquara in the state of São Paulo to find out about the consequences of the severe storms in the region.
Lula condemned the attack. "All vandals will be found and punished," said the head of state on Sunday. "We will also find out who funded it." By decree, Lula ordered the federal government to take responsibility for public safety in Brasília.
The head of the ruling Workers' Party (PT) raised serious allegations against those responsible in Brasília. "The federal district government was irresponsible in the face of the invasion of Brasília and the National Congress," Gleisi Hoffmann wrote on Twitter. "It was an announced crime against democracy, against the will of voters and for other interests. The governor and his secretary of security, a Bolsonaro supporter, are responsible for everything that happens."
Brasilia security chief sacked
Brasília's chief of security, Anderson Torres, was immediately fired. "I have decided to dismiss the Minister of Security of the Federal District and at the same time have sent all security forces into the streets to arrest and punish those responsible," Federal District Governor Ibaneis Rocha wrote on Twitter. "I am in Brasília to observe the demonstrations and to take all measures to curb the anti-democratic riots in the government district."
Right-wing President Bolsonaro lost to left-wing politician Lula in the runoff last October and left office at the turn of the year. He never explicitly acknowledged his defeat. Even after the election, radical supporters of the ex-military had repeatedly protested against Lula's victory and called on the country's armed forces to stage a military coup.
Contrary to custom, Bolsonaro did not attend the inauguration of his successor Lula on New Year's Day and flew to the United States with his family.