Brazil investigates pro-Bolsonaro rioters who stormed political buildings

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By Euronews  with AP, Reuters
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police as they storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. Sunday, 8 January 2023.
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police as they storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil. Sunday, 8 January 2023.   -   Copyright  Eraldo Peres/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Brazilian authorities have begun investigating pro-Bolsonaro rioters who stormed government buildings on Sunday, with newly elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva vowing to bring those responsible to justice.

The country's Supreme Court late on Sunday removed Brasilia's governor, Ibaneis Rocha, from office for 90 days due to flaws in security in the capital, while Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes also ordered social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to block pro-coup propaganda.

This comes after supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who refuse to accept his electoral defeat stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace in Brasilia, just a week after the inauguration of Silva, his leftist rival.

It represents the worst attack on the country's institutions since democracy was restored four decades ago.

Thousands of demonstrators bypassed security barricades, climbed on the roofs, broke windows and invaded all three buildings, which are connected through the vast Three Powers square in the country's capital. Some are calling for a military intervention to restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power.

Images on TV channel Globo News showed protesters roaming the presidential palace, many of them wearing green and yellow, the colours of the flag that have also come to symbolise the Bolsonaro government.

The rioters smashed windows, overturned furniture, destroyed art works and stole the country's original 1988 Constitution. Guns were also seized from a presidential security office.

The police, who seemed completely overwhelmed, tried in vain to push them back with tear gas.

The incidents have been quickly condemned by world leaders, from US President Joe Biden and France's Emmanuel Macron to Latin American heads of state.

The riots have also been compared to the invasion of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, something many political analysts have warned about for months. But in this case, it is likely that Congress and the Supreme Court had limited personnel inside the buildings on a Sunday.

Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting against Lula's electoral win since October 30, blocking roads, setting vehicles on fire and gathering outside military buildings, asking armed forces to intervene. Many believed the election results were fraudulent or unreliable.

"All the people who did this will be found and punished," Lula told reporters from Sao Paulo State.

Lula decreed federal intervention of public security in the capital and promised exemplary punishment for the leaders of the "fascist" assault that was aimed at provoking a military coup that could restore Bolsonaro to power.

"This absurd attempt to impose their will by force will not prevail," said Justice Minister Flavio Dino on his Twitter account. "The government of the Federal District has ensured there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work."

Dino stated that approximately 200 rioters had been arrested, although Brasilia governor Rocha put the number at 400.

Bolsonaro, who flew to the US ahead of Lula's inauguration, reacted to the events unfolding in the Brazilian capital by stating that "peaceful demonstrations" are a "part of democracy", although he condemned the invasion of government buildings.

The former president faces legal risks from several investigations before the Supreme Court in Brazil, where his loss of political immunity leaves him more exposed to criminal and electoral probes that could lead to his arrest or bar him from running for office.