Tonhe invade On January 8, the meeting of the Brazilian Presidential Palace, Congress and Supreme Court lasted for three hours. The damage to Brazilian democracy will last longer.
Thousands of supporters of the country’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro, have stormed government buildings demanding the restoration of their hero, a right-wing populist who lost elections last year By. The uprising came a week after the inauguration of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won that election.
Many, if not most, of Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters believe Lula is cheating without evidence. Mr. Bolsonaro has fueled this lie. He refuses to admit defeat. His party tried to invalidate the result. For the past two months, his fans have camped out outside the barracks, urging the armed forces to stage a coup.
When that fails, they take matters into their own hands; police in the capital, Brasilia, seem to have little opposition.despite days of warning bolsonist Something was being plotted, a security plan apparently put on hold at the last minute by Brasília’s governor. Few roads were blocked. No reinforcements were sent to government buildings.
This uprising was sparked and inspired by Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. In the Brazilian Senate, thugs climbed onto and slid off the stage as if they were in a playground. At the Supreme Court, they ripped a door from the judges’ quarters and held it aloft like a trophy. Police eventually used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the rioters. Mr. Bolsonaro, who has been in Florida since December, was slow to condemn the violence, saying on Twitter that it did not “cross the line” until near the end of the violence. On January 10, he posted a video on the social media site Facebook again questioning the election results (the video was subsequently deleted).
Lula announced federal intervention in Brasilia, putting the region’s security under his government’s direct control by January 31. Hundreds of people have been arrested and numerous criminal investigations have been opened. Investigators will try to figure out how the protest was planned. They also wondered why the police did so little to stop them, intervening only when the looting was going on. Carlos Fico of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro believes that is partly because the “vast majority” of police sympathize with Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain.
Mr Bolsonaro has spent decades building a political base among police and soldiers, working to increase their budgets and benefits. He excluded soldiers and gendarmes from cutting pensions in 2019 and pardoned police officers convicted of unlawful killing. He’s also trying to pass a law that would effectively grant police immunity in such cases. By contrast, Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, set up a commission in 2011 to investigate crimes committed during Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, and in that tortured during this period, which angered the armed forces.
Lula’s government is unlikely to change the police’s political preferences. But it can root out commanders and officers who are proven negligent in their duty to protect, sending a message that police must uphold the law impartially.
A federal prosecutor has opened an investigation into what Brasilia’s police commander called “total inaction.” Likewise, Alexandre de Moraes was a Supreme Court Justice, bolsonist, the region’s governor, Ibanes Rocha, was suspended for 90 days on charges of “negligence and connivance”.mr rocha defended bolsonist against what he called “uncensored political protests” and ignoring calls to increase security or block roads around government buildings that were attacked.
Brazilians aren’t just divided; polarization distorts one side’s perception of reality. Nearly 40% of respondents to an online poll by Atlas Intelligence said they believed Mr Bolsonaro had won the election. While nearly 76 percent disapprove of hacking government buildings, 18 percent approve. A whopping 37 percent said they would support a military coup to overthrow Lula’s electoral victory. On the day of Lula’s inauguration, many protesters camped outside the military camp, fearing that Brazil would soon become a communist dictatorship. “I don’t want to see my son eat out of the trash,” Geisi Avila said as she cradled her two-year-old.
Lula is unlikely to win over Brazilians who believe such things. But he could try to regain his composure. Chris Garman of the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, believes Lula will have to “walk a fine line” between toughness and restraint. He needs to show that the rebels and the police supporting them will be punished, but avoid engaging in narratives like this: bolsonist (and Christians and conservatives) are victims of persecution. On the night of the riots, he called the rioters “Nazis” and “Fascists,” which was ill-advised and untrue. The next day, he adopted more statesmanlike language.
The political goodwill that emerged in the aftermath of the crisis could help Lula get the support he needs in Congress to implement a series of tricky economic reforms, such as tweaking taxes to boost growth. But whatever boost in popularity he gets, it’s likely to be temporary.And remember Brazil’s angry division and enduring strength Bolsonaroism, the president may become more risk-averse. He has already extended wasteful fuel subsidies imposed by his predecessor, against the advice of the finance minister.
Investors appear to have believed in Lula. The Brazilian real rose against the dollar immediately after the election, only falling slightly after the chaos in Brasília. But it would be wrong for the government to back away from reforms because it fears future protests. The economic crisis will only exacerbate the turmoil. ■