Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil Congress and presidential palace

Security forces use tear gas in apparently failed effort to repel demonstrators

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Supporters of Brazil's far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro pushed through police barricades and stormed into the national Congress, presidential palace and Supreme Court buildings on Sunday in a protest against Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's inauguration last week.

There were no immediate reports of casualties but social media footage showed rioters throwing furniture and smashing the windows of the presidential palace and ransacking rooms in the Supreme Court in what was quickly becoming serious political unrest.

The area around the parliament building in Brasilia was cordoned off by the authorities.

But hundreds of Bolsonaro backers who refuse to accept leftist Mr da Silva's election victory broke through, marched up ramps and gathered on a roof of the building, AFP reported.

The scenes were reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol building by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, an ally of Mr Bolsonaro.

Startling images on social media showed a tide of people storming the national Congress, many waving Brazilian flags.

The building is home to Brazil's Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Security used tear gas in an apparently failed effort to repel the demonstrators.

"These vandals, who we could call ... fanatical fascists, did what has never been done in the history of this country," said Mr da Silva during an official trip to Sao Paulo state. "All these people who did this will be found and they will be punished."

Mr da Silva, who announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia lasting until January 31 after the capital's security forces were initially overwhelmed by the invaders, blamed Mr Bolsonaro for inflaming his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations about potential election fraud.

The president's allies also raised questions about how the security forces were so unprepared and easily overwhelmed by rioters who had been planning on social media for days to gather for weekend demonstrations.

Mr Bolsonaro, who was narrowly defeated by Mr da Silva in the second round of the presidential election on October 30, left Brazil at the end of the year and travelled to Florida, the US state where Mr Trump now lives.

US President Joe Biden called the events an "assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power," adding that Brazil's democratic institutions had full US support.

Supporters of Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia. Reuters

Far from the capital, Brazilian industries were on alert for a new round of unrest from Bolsonaro supporters, whose post-election motorway blockades have disrupted grain shipments and meatpacking operations in recent months.

State-run oil company Petrobras increased security at its refineries, in a cautionary measure after threats against several assets, including Brazil's biggest fuel plant.

The Supreme Court, whose crusading judge, Justice Alexandre de Moraes, has been a thorn in the side of Mr Bolsonaro and his supporters, was ransacked by the invaders. Images from social media showed protesters clubbing security cameras and shattering the windows of the modernist building.

Both Mr de Moraes and the court's Chief Justice Rosa Weber vowed punishment for the "terrorists" who had attacked the country's democratic institutions. The heads of both houses of Congress denounced the attacks publicly and moved up plans to fly back to the capital.

Ibaneis Rocha, the Brasilia governor, said he had fired his top security official, Anderson Torres, previously Mr Bolsonaro's justice minister. The solicitor general's office said it had filed a request for the arrest of Mr Torres.

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

On Saturday, with rumours of a confrontation brewing in Brasilia, Justice Minister Flavio Dino authorised the use of the National Public Security Force. On Sunday, he wrote on Twitter, "this absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail".

Updated: January 09, 2023, 9:01 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS