Thousands of rioters have broken into Brazil’s Congress, Presidential Palace and Supreme Court.
The rioters are supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who has refused to accept his defeat in the recent federal election.
Brazil’s new President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) has called the rioters “vandals and fascists” and accused Bolsonaro of encouraging them.
Lula, a left-wing former President, defeated Bolsonaro in a Presidential election last October.
Bolsonaro, a far-right leader, has made unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud.
Bolsonaro has been mostly silent since the election, but his legal team unsuccessfully challenged the result and he has not conceded. He did not attend Lula’s inauguration and is currently in Florida.
Several thousand rioters stormed the government buildings, smashing windows and furniture, in the capital city of Brasilia. Video footage shows some rioters beating a police officer on a horse.
The buildings were largely unoccupied and Lula is currently in a different part of the country. No deaths have been reported. More than 200 rioters have been arrested so far.
Lula called the rioters “vandals and fascists” who “did what has never been done in the history of the country”. He promised to respond with the “force of the law”, including towards anyone who financed the riot.
He has blamed Bolsonaro for inciting violence. “Everybody knows there are various speeches of the ex-President encouraging this,” Lula said.
Hours later, Bolsonaro also criticised the protests, saying that peaceful demonstrations are part of democracy, but that “depredations and invasions of public buildings… escape the rule”.
He rejected Lula’s suggestion he should be blamed for the riots, saying there is no evidence he has incited violence.
Role of the police
Lula has criticised the response of police in the capital after footage emerged of police walking alongside protesters. He accused them of “incompetence, bad faith or malice”.
Brazil’s Federal Government will take over policing in Brasilia for the rest of the month.
The riot has drawn condemnation from across the political spectrum in Brazil. São Paulo Governor Tarcísio de Freitas, a former minister under Bolsonaro, said protests “lose legitimacy and reason from the moment there is violence… we will not allow this”.
Bolsonaro’s former Vice President Hamilton Mourão said last week (before the riot) that Bolsonaro’s silence had led to “an atmosphere of chaos and social disintegration”.
International leaders have also condemned the violence, including U.S. President Joe Biden who called it “outrageous”.