Brazilian authorities vowed Monday to protect democracy and condemned “acts of terrorism” a day after thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed and vandalized the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential office building in the capital city of Brasilia.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, congressional leaders and the Supreme Court president issued a statement Monday saying that “defenders of democracy” in Brazil “reject the acts of terrorism, vandalism, crime and the attempted coup” and “are united to take institutional action, according to Brazilian law.”
Lula toured heavily damaged buildings late Sunday and decreed a federal security intervention in the city’s federal district. The decree gives the government special powers to restore law and order in the capital and lasts until January 31.
Brazilian officials say they have detained more than 1,200 supporters of Bolsonaro, the far-right former leader who narrowly lost the October election to the leftist Lula.
Bolsonaro, who is now staying in Orlando, in the southern U.S. state of Florida, went to a hospital on Monday with intestinal pain, his wife, Michelle, said on Instagram. His doctor said he had an intestinal blockage that was not serious and probably would not need surgery, according to Reuters.
Bolsonaro has been hospitalized multiple times since surviving a stabbing during his 2018 election campaign.
Some U.S. Democratic lawmakers have called for the United States to send the former president back to Brazil.
“The United States should not be a refuge for this authoritarian who has inspired domestic terrorism in Brazil,” Representative Joaquin Castro told CNN.
The White House said Monday that it had not received any requests from Brazil’s government regarding Bolsonaro’s status.
The supporters of Bolsonaro who carried out the attacks on Brazil’s seats of power were trying to either reinstate the former president or oust the newly inaugurated Lula.
Bolsonaro has denied inciting his supporters and said Sunday that the rioters had “crossed the line.”
Lula has vowed to bring the rioters to justice and promised to punish the police who failed to stop the protesters. “All the people who did this will be found and punished,” he said.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday called the riots in Brazil “outrageous.”
On Monday, Biden issued a joint statement with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the three leaders met in Mexico City for previously scheduled talks.
“We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions,” the leaders said. “Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil. We look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond.”
In response to a question from VOA in Mexico City, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “The freely elected leader of Brazil will govern Brazil and will not be deterred or knocked off course by the actions of these people who have assaulted the instruments of governance in Brasilia.”
At the U.N., Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “I was shocked by what I saw, but I must tell you, I trust Brazil, I trust Brazilian institutions, and I am absolutely convinced that Brazil will deal with this situation with adequate accountability and that the democratic functioning of Brazil will move on.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, “The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated.” He said that Germany stands behind Lula.
The rioters, many of them wearing the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag, broke windows, toppled furniture, and hurled computers and printers to the ground. They overturned the U-shaped table at which the Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice’s office and vandalized an iconic statue outside the court.
The interiors of the state buildings were left in states of ruin. Justice Minister Flavio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and an attempted coup. He said police have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital.
“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” Dino said. “We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”
Despite the arrests, police were noticeably slow to react, even after the arrival of more than 100 buses, leaving some analysts to wonder whether authorities had simply ignored numerous warnings about the intended protest, underestimated the protesters’ strength or had been somehow complicit.
Public prosecutors in the capital said local security forces had at the very least been negligent, while a Supreme Court justice suspended the regional governor.
The protesters’ invasion of the Brazilian government buildings echoed the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. However, unlike the riot in Washington, where lawmakers were in session, the buildings in Brasilia were largely vacant.
A strong police or military presence was also absent despite advance warnings that Bolsonaro’s supporters planned to descend on the buildings.
Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, said, “Police and the attorney general office need to investigate not just those who committed acts of violence but those who incited and financed them. Those responsible for this extremely serious attack on Brazil’s democratic institutions should be held accountable.”
Amnesty International called for “the relevant authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations so that the acts of this Sunday, 8 January, are appropriately investigated and sanctioned.”
VOA’s Anita Powell contributed to this report from Mexico City. Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters.