Security forces arrest supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro after retaking control of the presidential palace in Brasília, Brazil on January 8, 2023.

Security forces arrest supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro after retaking control of the presidential palace in Brasília, Brazil on January 8, 2023.

(Photo: Ton Molina/AFP via Getty Images)

1,500 Bolsonaro Backers Detained After Far-Right Coup Attempt in Brazil

The country's justice minister said the right-wing former president bears "a political responsibility" for the attack on "the buildings of the three branches of powers, aiming at a coup d'état."

Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino said Monday that "about 1,500" people have been arrested since supporters of Brazil's far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro attacked government buildings in Brasília the previous day.

Dino said that at least 209 people were arrested Sunday and "about 1,200" were detained Monday, as authorities dismantled a protest camp set up near military headquarters in the federal capital, according toCNN.

"This attack is the culmination of a campaign by Bolsonaro and his allies to undermine democratic institutions."

The attack on Brazil's National Congress, presidential palace, and top court came a week after the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who beat Bolsonoro in an October runoff. Since the election, some Bolsonaro supporters have advocated a military coup to oust Lula.

Neither man was in Brasília for the insurrection: Bolsonoro flew to Florida shortly before Lula was sworn in and was admitted to a U.S. hospital on Monday, according to his wife; Lula, who blamed his predecessor for inciting the violence, was in São Paulo.

As Bloomberg reported Monday:

Lula held a meeting with the heads of the Supreme Court, Congress, and several of his Cabinet members at a presidential palace left in shambles.

"We're united to ensure that institutional measures are taken in accordance with the law," they wrote in a joint statement after the meeting. "We call on society to remain calm, defending peace and democracy in our country."

The Brazilian leader also spoke by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday.

"President Biden conveyed the unwavering support of the United States for Brazil's democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people as expressed in Brazil's recent presidential election, which President Lula won," they said in a joint statement. "President Biden condemned the violence and the attack on democratic institutions and on the peaceful transfer of power."

"The two leaders pledged to work closely together on the issues confronting the United States and Brazil, including climate change, economic development, and peace and security," the statement continued. The U.S. leader invited his counterpart to visit Washington, D.C. early next month "for in-depth consultations on a wide-ranging shared agenda," and Lula accepted.

Earlier Monday, Biden had joined with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to condemn the "attacks on Brazil's democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power," express their solidarity with the South American country "as it safeguards its democratic institutions," and affirm that they "look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond."

Although Bolsonaro is reportedly hospitalized with abdominal pain potentially related to an old stab wound, Biden is under mounting pressure—including from U.S. lawmakers—to expel him from the United States. The peace group CodePink has joined that call and highlighted that "Anderson Torres, Bolsonaro's justice minister who was appointed minister of public security for the capital city Brasília, is also in the United States."

"Bolsonaro and Torres should be sent back to Brazil to face justice for their crimes," the group said. "While Brazil's elected government and its people are anxious to rebuild a country that was seriously damaged by the unbridled neoliberal policies of the Bolsonaro government, the anti-democratic and violent mobs ignored the sovereign will of the Brazilian people who elected President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to a new constitutional mandate. CodePink vehemently rejects these threats to the social and political peace of the Brazilian people, and stands firmly with the elected government of President Lula."

The Brazilian justice minister explained during a news conference Monday that at this time, there are no legal grounds to investigate Bolsonaro in connection with Sunday's violence. However, he still placed blame on the far-right leader.

"Words have power and those words turned into hate, which turned into destruction," Dino said. "It is a political responsibility because there are political leaders who are responsible for the hate speech and the destruction that we saw yesterday at the buildings of the three branches of powers, aiming at a coup d'état."

Other world leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and human rights organizations have also condemned Sunday's attack and related actions from Bolsonaro and his supporters—which have provoked comparisons to former U.S. President Donald Trump's "Big Lie" about the 2020 election, which culminated in the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

"This attack is the culmination of a yearslong campaign by former president Jair Bolsonaro and his allies to undermine democratic principles and spread baseless claims of electoral fraud," Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting director of Human Rights Watch's Americas Division declared Sunday. "The authorities have a responsibility to provide security to Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace, as well as protect the media and others."

"Local authorities failed to take adequate measures to protect key federal buildings, particularly considering previous violent incidents by Bolsonaro supporters, including an attack on the headquarters of the federal police on December 12, the day when electoral authorities officially certified the victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the October presidential elections," she noted. "Police and the attorney general office need to investigate not just those who committed acts of violence, but those who incited and financed them. Those responsible for this extremely serious attack on Brazil's democratic institutions should be held accountable."

Amnesty International on Sunday also called for probes and prosecutions "in accordance with international human rights standards" and vowed to monitor the federal intervention in public security decreed by Lula in response to the violence.

The organization noted not only "the attacks and invasion of public buildings," but also "destruction of documents, violations of the security and physical integrity of journalists covering the events, and of security forces officers attacked by groups of civilians."

"Amnesty International demands that the Brazilian state ensure a prompt, impartial, serious, and effective investigation into the circumstances that led to the invasion and attacks," the group said, "in order to identify, prosecute, judge, and hold accountable all those involved in these incidents, including the instigators, organizers, and financiers, as well as the omissions of state institutions that failed to act to prevent these attacks from taking place."

Lula tweeted Monday evening that "it is not possible for a movement to last as long as it did" in front of the military headquarters "if there are no people financing it" and pledged that "we're going to investigate and we're going to find out who financed it."

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