Bolsonaro Supporters Attack Brazilian Capital

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

On Jan. 8, supporters of Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in the country’s capital of Brasilia. The attack comes one week after President Lula da Silva was inaugurated. Da Silva and Bolsonaro faced off in a close election in 2022, with Lula winning by 1.8% of the vote. 

The Jan. 8 violence is the culmination of months of unrest. After the election, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters demonstrated outside of the Brazilian army’s regional headquarters in Rio de Janeiro calling for a military uprising to return Bolsonaro to power. Truck drivers also blocked roads in protest of Bolsonaro’s loss, leading the supreme court to issue orders to clear the roads.

The rioters, many donning jerseys of the Brazil national soccer team and wearing Brazilian flags, breached the congressional building, presidential palace and supreme court, leaving broken glass, destroyed artwork and at least 70 people injured in their wake. Soldiers removed rioters from the area and approximately 1500 people were arrested. In response to the security failure at the capital, a supreme court justice removed the governor of Brasilia from office for 90 days. 

The incident drew global condemnation, and U.S. President Joe Biden called it “outrageous” and an “assault on democracy.”  During the incident, Bolsonaro was in Florida, where he has been since Dec. 30. In a Twitter post, the former president condemned the riot. 

The riot in many ways resembles the Jan. 6 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. In both cases the losing candidate of a presidential election claimed faulty voting machines influenced the election and delayed their concession while supporters assaulted government buildings and clashed with authorities. The events of Jan. 8 challenge the strength of Brazil’s democracy, the response will determine its future.