Supporters of outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro riot following the ratification of President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's victory in Brasília on December 12, 2022.

Supporters of outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro riot following the ratification of President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's victory in Brasilia on December 12, 2022.

(Photo: Evaristo Sa/AFP via Getty Images)

Echoes of January 6 as Bolsonaro Supporters Torch Vehicles, Attempt to Storm Police HQ

"These people did not prevail today and they will not prevail tomorrow," said incoming Justice and Public Security Minister Flavio Dino.

Supporters of outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro set fire to cars and buses and tried to breach federal police headquarters in the capital of Brasilia on Monday night.

The violence erupted hours after Brazil's electoral court officially ratified the victory of President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a celebrated leftist who defeated the far-right incumbent by more than 2.1 million votes in a runoff election in late October.

According toThe Guardian, "Hardcore Bolsonaristas who want the result overturned rampaged through the heart of Brasilia, after a member of their radical group was arrested for allegedly trying to incite violence that would prevent Lula from being sworn in on January 1."

Jose Acacio Serere Xavante is the Bolsonaro fanatic who was detained after Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes accused him of organizing "anti-democratic acts" and issued an arrest warrant.

Reutersreported that Bolsonaro supporters confronted security forces outside police headquarters, while "police fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowd."

As The Guardian reported:

Footage posted on social media by bystanders and local journalists showed militant Bolsonaro supporters setting fire to a bus.

"The center of Brasilia... looks like a war zone," tweeted Alan Rios, a reporter from the local news website Metropoles, alongside images of the destruction. "Torched buses and cars, destroyed buildings and signposts, rubbish bins and gas canisters littering the floor after being used as weapons," Rios wrote.

Political commentator Thomas Traumann described the riot as an attempt to replicate the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump invaded the halls of Congress in a failed bid to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's win. "It won't work," Traumann tweeted, "but it's an attempt."

Widespread lies about the Brazilian presidential election being "stolen" have proliferated because Bolsonaro--a vocal admirer of Brazil's former U.S.-backed military dictatorship, in which he served as an army officer--and his inner circle spent months baselessly criticizing the country's electronic voting system and threatening to reject the results unless he won.

Taking a cue from Trump--whose unfounded but relentless assault on the integrity of mail-in ballots has convinced millions of Republican voters that Biden's 2020 victory was illegitimate and even provoked a deadly right-wing coup attempt--Bolsonaro and his allies preemptively claimed that Brazil's voting infrastructure was vulnerable to fraud and refused to commit to accepting a loss.

In the wake of his defeat on October 30, supporters of Bolsonaro blocked hundreds of roads across the country and urged the armed forces to intervene to keep him in power.

Two days after Lula's victory, Bolsonaro allowed the presidential transition process to move forward but refused to concede defeat to his leftist challenger. Three weeks ago, the lame-duck president officially contested his loss, citing a software bug in Brazil's electronic voting machines that independent experts say had no effect on the outcome of the race.

Justice de Moraes fined Bolsonaro for his "bad faith" challenge. Meanwhile, Lula's election team sued Bolsonaro, his running mate, and two of his sons last Thursday for attacking the country's voting system and attempting to bribe voters.

The next day, the outgoing president broke his post-election silence to tell his supporters that his political fate is in their hands.

"Who decides where I go are you," Bolsonaro told a crowd outside the gates of the presidential residence on Friday. "Who decides which way the armed forces go are you."

Some of Bolsonaro's most ardent backers have continued to demand a military coup to prevent Lula from taking office.

As Reuters reported Tuesday: "Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters gathered outside the presidential residence on Monday afternoon with banners calling for 'military intervention.' The president joined them for a public prayer but did not address the crowd."

"There's not going to be an inauguration," said Jose Trindade, one of the Bolsonaro supporters in attendance. "Bolsonaro was re-elected, but they stole it. So only the army can put things in order."

Monday night's violent outburst, which was reportedly contained by Tuesday morning, has raised fears about the potential for more chaos between now and January 1, when Lula takes office in a public ceremony in the nation's capital.

"Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues, a key Lula aide, said there were concerns about the physical safety of Lula and Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin, as protesters had surrounded the hotel where he is staying in Brasilia," Reuters noted. "Lula's team denied reports that Lula would be removed from the hotel by helicopter. Brasilia's public security officials said they had secured the area around Lula's hotel, and urged motorists to avoid the center of the city where many roads had been closed."

Flavio Dino, whom Lula has appointed as Justice and Public Security Minister in his incoming administration, condemned "the depredation and attempted invasion of the federal police building in Brasilia," calling it "unacceptable."

In an attempt to reassure the Brazilian public on Monday night, Dino told reporters: "Are there, unfortunately, people who want anti-democratic and illegal chaos? Yes there are. But these people did not prevail today and they will not prevail tomorrow."

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