Why are right-wingers in Brazil running riot?

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalJan 09, 2023 | 14:04

Why are right-wingers in Brazil running riot?

Thousands of right-wing supporters of Jair Bolsonaro invaded the Presidential buildings in Brazil's capital cit Brasilia on Sunday (January 8). Photo: AP

The adage that history repeats itself has proven true in Brazil. What the world witnessed on January 6, 2021 in Washington DC, US, when Republican supporters stormed the US Capitol, is now happening in Brazil. Former President Jair Bolsonaro's right-wing supporters invaded Brazil's congressional building and Presidential offices, also known as the Three Squares building, in the capital city of Brasilia on Sunday (January 8).


Since the building was empty on Sunday, the protesters, who were in thousands, ascended to the ramp of the congressional building while a smaller group invaded from a lower level.

This, wasn't unexpected as the previous few months have been marred with heavy protests by Bolsonaro's supporters who had been camping outside military bases and also called the armed forces to take over the country and halt Lula's inauguration. 

What happened? Bolsonaro's supporters had already been protesting against Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva's elevation as President. Since Lula's in swearing-in ceremony on January 1, the protests had further intensified. On October, 30 2022, Lula had narrowly edged former President Bolsonaro and ousted him from the office.

  • Bolsonaro supporters had called the elections a farce. After Lula's swearing in ceremony was done, the protesters carried out at online campaign to mobilise the people further for mass protests on January 8, 2023.
  • On Sunday afternoon, the protesters marched inside the Brasilia's Praca dos Tres Poderes, where the country's three branches of power are located.
  • The main group of protesters had started their march from the military headquarters where they had been now gathering for weeks and entered the Three Power square buildings. The protesters also surprisingly faced no sort of resistance from police forces during their march in the city.
    Right-wing supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, storm Brazil's Presidential buildings in a bid to oppose his Presidentship. Photo: AP
  • Once, inside the buildings, the protesters, climbed on the roofs, smashed windows, overturned furniture and looted items inside the buildings, the New York Times reported.
  • According to news a report by The New York Times, the protestors said that they are taking their country back.
  • The police used teargas shells, rubber bullets, pepper spray to disperse the protesters. Helicopters hovered overhead, and at last, the military moved in to take back the buildings.

The role of Bolsonaro in the unrest: One of the main reasons for the chaos in Brazil is actually Bolsonaro's divisive rhetoric and his claim that the election mandate through which Lula won was a stolen one. This acted as a catalyst for his right-wing supporters, who have been protesting outside army camp bases and asking it to take over the country, even through a coup.

  • Ever since Bolsonaro was defeated in the election by Lula, he had called the election system in Brazil a fraud, a claim which has even been refuted by the Brazilian courts. 
  • Bolsonaro did not even attend the swearing-in ceremony of Lula and instead flew to Florida, US, where he is camping. Even in the run-up to the election, Bolsonaro had claimed that the electoral voting is fraud, which was again dismissed by the election commission.

Lula and Bolsonaro respond after the chaos: President Lula, who was on a visit to Sau Paolo city in Brazil, said that the storming inside the government buildings was without precedent and labelled those behind it as "fanatic terrorists".

  • He also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the rioters via his social media."Everybody knows that there are various speeches of the ex-President encouraging this," he said.
  • Bolsonaro, on the other hand, took to his Twitter rejecting the accusation of Lula on the storming of the buildings. "Pillaging and invasions of the public buildings as occurred today were outside law," he wrote.
Brazil President Lula Da Silva. Photo: AP

World leaders react: The chaotic scenes at Brazil's Presidential buildings sent the world leaders in shock and many have condemned it.

US President Joe Biden called it an "assault on democracy". He said: "I condemn the asault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil's democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the attack, saying that the democratic institutions must be respected by all. "Deeply concerned about the news of rioting and vandalism against the State institutions in Brasilia. Democratic institutions must be respected by everyone. We extend our full support to the Brazilian authorities," he tweeted.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres emphasized that will of the Brazilian people and democratic institutions must be respected.

"I condemn the assault on Brazil's democratic institutions that took place today. The will of the Brazilian people and democratic institutions must be respected. I have full confidence that it will. Brazil is a great democratic country."

Brazil, a divided country: Brazil has become a highly divided country in the recent past and attack on democratic instiutions by protesters show that the country is highly divided on left vs right lines.

  • The supporters of Bolsonaro saw him as "saviour". They had high hopes that he would would defeat Lula in the Presidential elections, and when it didn't happen they resorted to protests and aggressive campaign.
  • The winning of Lula was already on the cards even before the elections, since the country had been going through massive economic downfall under Bolsonaro. The large number of deaths due to Covid-19 had further dampened his popularity.
  • Lula, who had been the country's President from 2003-2010, once again took over the reins of the country, though he himself has been to jail on corruption charges.
Last updated: January 09, 2023 | 14:04
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