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Brazil: Bolsonaro supporters storm National Congress

January 8, 2023

Hundreds of supporters of Brazil's former president have stormed seats of political, judicial and legislative power. President Lula has declared a federal intervention, with thousands of troops on standby in Brasilia.

Supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro hold a demonstration at the Esplanada dos Ministerios in Brasilia on January 8, 2023.
Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the National Congress buildingImage: Evariste Sa/AFP

For the latest developments out of Brazil on Monday, January 9, follow DW's continued coverage here.

After hours of chaos, Brazilian police have retaken the National Congress building after pro-Bolsonaro protesters stormed the premises. Police are still in the process of clearing rioters from the Supreme Court headquarters and Planalto presidential palace.

Brazil's Chief Justice Rosa Weber on Sunday said the country's Supreme Court will work to ensure that "terrorists" were made an "example" of. 

Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the National Congress building in Brasilia earlier on Sunday.

Hundreds of people invaded the building, calling for military intervention to overthrow President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula was inaugurated one week ago

Supporters of the former president refuse to accept that the populist autocrat lost his bid for reelection, claiming the election was stolen. Hardcore supporters have even openly called for a military coup in order to put him back in charge, with some seeking to sow chaos through vandalism and violent attacks in hopes of triggering a military response.

Bolsonaro condemned the "pillaging and invasion of public buildings" after hundreds stormed Brazilian institutions.

He rejected what  he called Lula's "baseless" accusations that he had incited the unrest.

Hundreds pour into Congress

Footage shared on social media showed hundreds of people pouring into the National Congress building. The protesters were met with police tear gas. 

A Brasilia-based reporter shared a video on Twitter purportedly showing the protesters storm the building. 

Another journalist shared a video purportedly showing the protesters as they tried to break the windows of the National Congress building. 

The group crossed a police barrier and climbed the ramp that gives access to the roof of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate buildings.

Protesters wearing yellow and green T-shirts and Brazilian flags attacked some police vehicles securing the building, the Spanish EFE news agency reported. They also destroyed protection barriers.

Brazilian media reported that the army had stationed 2,500 troops in Brasilia ahead of the possible declaration of a "guarantee of law and order" (GLO) by the president, which would authorize the use of troops in the case of a security crisis.

Planalto Palace and Supreme Court stormed

The protesters attempted to enter the Planalto Palace, which serves as the seat of government, news agency LUSA reported. Videos on social media appeared to show them inside the palace. 

Other footage purportedly showed them gain access to the nearby Supreme Court. 

A video shared on social media showed a man draped in a Brazilian flag holding what appeared to be a copy of the Brazilian constitution taken from the Federal Supreme Court. The original copy of the constitution, ratified in 1988, is held at the court.

Federal intervention declared

Lula has condemned the invasion of Brazil's seat of power and vowed to hold those responsible accountable. "We will find out who these vandals are, and they will be brought down with the full force of the law," Lula said from the southeastern city of Araraquara, while on a visit to the flood-hit region.

Lula has signed a decree declaring a federal intervention in Brasilia, which grants government special powers to restore law and order in the capital.

The president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco, said police were focused on containing the situation.

In a post on Twitter, he said he "vehemently repudiates" the "anti-democratic acts" and called for a judicial response.

Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino also condemned the mobs on Twitter, stressing that their attempts to impose their will by force "will not prevail."

Dino said that he was at the Ministry of Justice headquarters.

The Brazilian attorney general said in a statement on Sunday that he was following the events with "concern." He added that a criminal investigation has been opened to hold to account those responsible.

Since the October 30 elections, in which Lula defeated Bolsonaro, hundreds of people have been camped out in front of the army headquarters in Brasilia.

World leaders condemn invaders

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday condemned the scenes unfolding in Brasilia and said the situation was being watched closely.

"The United States condemns any effort to undermine democracy in Brazil. President Biden is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil's democratic institutions is unwavering," Sullivan tweeted.

US President Joe Biden called the situation "outrageous."

In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took to Twitter to denounce what he called a "reprehensible and anti-democratic coup attempt by conservatives in Brazil, incited by the leaders of oligarchic power, its spokespersons and fanatics."

While French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "The will of the Brazilian people and the democratic institutions must be respected! President @LulaOficial can count on France's unwavering support."

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez called for unity in the region and offered his support to Lula.

"I want to express my repudiation of what is happening in Brasilia. My unconditional support and that of the Argentine people to @LulaOficial in the face of this coup attempt he is facing," Fernandez wrote on Twitter."

"The EU condemns the undemocratic act of violence that took place on January 8 in the heart of the government district of Brasilia," EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said. "Brazilian democracy will defeat violence and extremism," he said.

Borell added that the EU has once again pledged full suport for President Lula and expressed its solidarity with the country's democratic institutions. He urged Brazil's political leaders, and above all former President Jair Bolsonaro, to "act responsibly and tell their supporters to go home."

js, aw/kb (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)