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News, January 2023
What Led Up to the Attack on Brazil's Government?
Judge Orders Arrest of Bolsonaro's Ex-Minister
January 11, 2022
Brazilian judge orders arrest of Bolsonaro's ex-minister after Brasilia rampage
Reuters, January 10, 2023
Former minister was running public security in the capital Investigations into violence may spread beyond Brasilia Bolsonaro released from hospital in Florida
A Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordered the arrest on Tuesday of the capital's most recent public security chief after supporters of right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro led a rampage through government buildings.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the arrest of Anderson Torres, who was Bolsonaro's justice minister before taking over this month as the public security chief for Brasilia, where thousands of protesters vandalized the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential offices on Sunday.
Torres, who was removed from office on Sunday, was not in the city when the riots occurred, having flown to Florida earlier this month. In a post on Twitter on Tuesday, he said he would return to Brazil from Orlando, where he was vacationing with his family, and turn himself in to justice.
Moraes also requested the arrest of Fabio Augusto Vieira, the head of Brasilia's military police, one of a number of officials responsible for protecting the key Brasilia government buildings. Vieira could not immediately be reached for comment.
Details of the charges leveled against the pair weren't immediately clear.
In the arrest warrant, Moraes cited their failure to ensure proper security forces were in place. He also cited their authorization of the entrance into the city of more than 100 buses with Bolsonaro supporters on board, and their failure to close down a camp at which the former president's loyalists had been gathering for months.
"In such a sensitive moment for Brazilian democracy, in which anti-democratic protests are occurring all day long, with the occupation of military buildings across the country, and in Brasilia, one cannot use the excuse of ignorance or incompetence," Moraes said in the arrest order, previously disclosed to Reuters by a person familiar with the matter.
A Reuters witness spotted police at the Torres family residence in an upscale Brasilia neighborhood, where a resident said they left carrying bags.
Across town, police set about questioning over 1,000 protesters after they were detained as troops dismantled their camp opposite the army's headquarters.
Protesters at the camp had called for a military coup to overturn the October election in which leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated Bolsonaro.
Moraes, who is running investigations of the "anti-democratic" demonstrations, vowed in a speech on Tuesday to combat the "terrorists" calling for a coup.
Yet the challenge of carrying out such an enormous criminal investigation into a loosely organized pro-Bolsonaro movement in the first weeks of a new government was already beginning to show.
Opposition Senator Marcos do Val, who has denounced the Brasilia attack as a blunder for the political right, told journalists outside the gym where the detainees were being held that many of them "are paying for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
By late afternoon, 527 were arrested, while 599 detainees were released, most of them elderly people, mothers with children or people with health problems, said the police.
Around 200 other demonstrators were under arrest and awaiting charges in a penal facility for their role in Sunday's rampage, which vandalized some of the capital's most iconic buildings in the worst attack on Brazilian democracy in decades.
'NOTHING WAS DONE'
Investigations may also sprawl far beyond Brasilia. Pro-Bolsonaro militants discussed on social media their plans to disrupt highways and oil refineries to cause economic chaos in synch with their storming of the capital.
Brazilian energy company Eletrobras (ELET6.SA) is investigating whether the collapse of two transmission towers was related to Sunday's violence in Brasilia, according to two sources familiar with the probe.
Eletrobras did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Its subsidiary, Eletronorte, released a statement on Monday about a fallen tower connecting rural communities in northern Brazil to the central grid, with "signs of sabotage."
The violence stunned Lula's government, which has been in office for barely a week, and could delay economic policy announcements that were planned for this week by an administration eager to show results.
On Monday night, Lula, who took office on Jan. 1, met with the head of the Supreme Court, congressional leaders and state governors in a show of national unity to condemn the riots.
Lula accused Bolsonaro's supporters of trying to overthrow democracy and questioned why the army had not discouraged calls for a military coup.
Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida 48 hours before his term ended, was released from an Orlando hospital where he had been admitted on Monday and was seen re-entering a residence late on Tuesday where he has been staying for most of his Florida trip.
It was not immediately clear whether Bolsonaro had met with Torres while in Florida.
Bolsonaro, 67, told CNN Brasil he may cut short his stay there due to his medical issues, returning to Brazil before the end of the month.
His son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, denied on Tuesday that the former president was responsible for the riots on Sunday.
"Since the election result he's been silent, licking his wounds, virtually incommunicado," he said in a session in the Senate.
Public prosecutors asked on Tuesday for a federal audit court to freeze the ex-president's assets in light of Sunday's vandalism – a move outside the traditional scope of that court.
Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier, Brad Brooks and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Aurora Ellis, Paul Simao and Kenneth Maxwell
What Led Up to the Attack on Brazil’s Government?
Analysis by Daniel Carvalho
Bloomberg January 11, 2023 at 5:29 a.m. EST
Thousands of supporters of Brazilian ex-President Jair Bolsonaro stormed congress, the presidential palace and the top court in Brasilia on Sunday, in what some saw as an attempt to trigger a military coup. Many Bolsonaro supporters have been pleading with the military to step in ever since President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won a tightly contested runoff election on Oct. 30. It was the worst attack on Brazil’s key institutions since the end of a military dictatorship and return to democracy in the 1980s and came after a bitter campaign that underscored the country’s deep divisions.
1. What made the election so dramatic?
It featured two larger-than-life figures representing opposite ends of the political spectrum. Lula, a leftist and former labor union leader, is revered by those who credit him with implementing policies that lifted millions out of poverty during his two terms in office from 2003-11, and reviled by others who see him as a symbol of corruption. He was found guilty of money laundering and corruption in 2017 and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison. A 77-year-old cancer survivor, he was released in 2019 after the Supreme Court adopted a new policy on detention during appeals, and the Court annulled his conviction on procedural grounds in 2021. Bolsonaro, 67, is a former army captain who was stabbed while on the campaign trail in 2018 and has been hospitalized several times as a result of that attack. His supporters consider him a guardian of traditional family values and an anti-corruption crusader, important campaign topics in a generally conservative nation. The president’s opponents have labeled him a far-right authoritarian and accuse him of advancing sexism, racism and homophobia.
2. What happened in the election?
Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in the runoff, obtaining 51% of the votes to 49% of his rival. He took office on Jan. 1 promising to unify a country whose divisions were if anything deepened by the campaign. Bolsonaro supporters set fire to cars in the central region of Brasília on the day Lula was certified and a bomb was found in a fuel truck in the vicinity of the city’s international airport in late December.
3. Why did Bolsonaro’s supporters want the military to intervene?
Last year’s election campaign was marked by a huge volume of fake news and insinuations about the electoral authority by Bolsonaro and his allies. The then president made unfounded charges about the security of the country’s long-established system of electronic ballots, raising doubts among his supporters as to the legitimacy of the results. This led to clashes with the country’s courts. After the runoff, Bolsonaro waited two days before issuing an ambiguous statement and has never publicly acknowledged his defeat, even as his base held large protests and circulated conspiracy theories.
4. What did his supporters do after the election?
In the days after the vote, trucks were used to block highways across the country before being removed at the order of the courts. Then crowds of supporters began to gather outside army headquarters across the country, waiting for a military intervention they believed Bolsonaro — who always spoke fondly of Brazil’s last dictatorship — suggested between the lines of his speeches. Hundreds of them continued to camp outside the bases even after Lula took office.
5. What was the conflict between Bolsonaro and the courts?
In recent years, Bolsonaro and his allies have come under scrutiny by the Supreme Court as it launched investigations into so-called antidemocratic acts such as demonstrations calling for the closing of congress and the top court, as well as the spread of misinformation. Several of his allies were arrested and some social media outlets backing him had their funding suspended for election misinformation and alleged attacks on democratic institutions. His camp’s anger against the courts was focused especially on Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who leads the electoral court that certified Lula’s victory and has been accused of overreaching his authority.
6. What has Bolsonaro done since the vote?
While he never filed a direct challenge to the election result, he didn’t quite accept it either. He made clear that he would not participate in the inauguration, spurning a post-dictatorship tradition in which the outgoing president hands the presidential sash of office to a successor. Two days before the end of the year, Bolsonaro left for the US, settling in a condominium in Florida, leading Lula’s supports to charge that he was seeking to escape from several investigations that had already begun against him.
7. What happened in Brasilia?
On Jan. 8, thousands of rioters, many draped in Brazilian flags or wearing the yellow and green national jersey, stormed congress, the presidential palace and the supreme court, leaving a trail of destruction. Journalists and police officers were attacked and historic buildings were vandalized. Furniture was thrown through the windows of the palaces. In the supreme court, chairs of the justices were tossed about, while the door of the closet in which Judge Moraes’ robes were kept was torn off. Videos shared on the internet showed the vandals carrying the piece of wood with the justice’s name as if it were a trophy. Works of art were torn or scratched, including the painting As mulatas, by the renowned 20th-century painter Di Cavalcanti.
8. What was the reaction to the attack?
After the rioters roamed freely for around three hours, members of the military police started clearing the buildings. It took another four hours for the area to become completely free of attackers. Lula, who was in São Paulo state to examine damage from heavy rains, gave an angry speech in which he declared an emergency intervention in the Federal District government. He vowed that those who participated in the riot or helped finance the event would be punished and denounced Bolsanaro as its cause. After the rioters were removed from the buildings, Bolsonaro condemned what he called “depredations and invasions of public buildings,” but said the event was similar to “acts done by the left in 2013 and 2017.” In both those years, there were large but much less violent public protests. Bolsonaro repudiated Lula’s charge of his involvement. At the same time, Moraes suspended the governor of the Federal District, a Bolsonaro supporter, for 90 days and the next day ordered that the encampments in front of army headquarters be removed, a process that led to about 1,500 arrests.
9. Who will investigate this?
A number of investigations began almost immediately and others are being discussed. The Federal District’s civil police were registering the hundreds of people arrested in the riot’s wake. The federal police and the federal highway police are investigating the financing of the buses that took rioters from other states to Brasília and are looking into who may have helped Bolsonaro’s supporters camp in front of army headquarters for so long. The Ministry of Justice created a specific email account to receive information about those responsible for the chaos of Jan. 8. There are also internal investigations by both the local and federal government to determine possible connivance of the security forces with the vandals. A congressional probe starting in February is under discussion.
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