Thousands of supporters of the right-wing chief executive, who was succeeded by left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last week following contentious national elections, entered facilities hosting the South American nation’s legislative and executive branches. Officials have vowed to prosecute the rioters and have taken some into custody.
“The coup plotters who promoted the destruction of public property in Brasilia are being identified and will be punished,” Lula vowed Sunday on social media. “Tomorrow we resume work at the Planalto Palace. Democracy always. Goodnight.”
Lula, a self-described socialist, defeated Bolsonaro, a populist conservative called the “Trump of the Tropics,” by a margin of 50.9% to 49.1% during national elections held in October. A justice on the Brazilian Supreme Court voided corruption convictions against Lula two years ago, restoring his eligibility for office. Documents leaked after Lula’s trial suggested that the judge in the case, Sergio Moro, improperly collaborated with the prosecution.
Bolsonaro supporters, concerned that Lula would adopt soft-on-crime policies and otherwise move the nation leftward, have camped in front of military facilities in recent months, pleading for authorities to take control of the government. Lula is also a populist and an icon in Latin America, where his ideology, Lulism, constitutes a popular strand of socialist thought.
Military assets were nevertheless deployed on Sunday to manage the protests.
“I come to inform you that more than 400 people have already been arrested and will pay for the crimes committed,” Brazilian Federal District Governor Ibaneis Rocha said on social media. “We continue working to identify all the others who participated in these terrorist acts this afternoon in the Federal District. We continue to work to restore order.”
Bolsonaro, currently residing in Florida while reportedly facing investigations in his home country, has claimed that the election results were fraudulent. On Sunday, however, he condemned illegal protests. “Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy,” he remarked. “However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule.”
The protests came almost exactly two years after Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, drawing a comparison between the two events from American commentators.
President Joe Biden expressed concern over the protests in Brazil.
“I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” he said, reiterating his willingness to work with Lula. “Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.”
American law enforcement agencies drew criticism after January 6 for throwing the book at the rioters, who were predominantly right-of-center, while seemingly ignoring protests related to the death of George Floyd that caused extensive damage to major American cities months earlier. The alleged treatment of the January 6 defendants has also provoked criticism toward the Justice Department.
Michael Whittaker contributed to this report.