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Bolsonaro supporters march into Brazil’s Congress

Bolsonaro supporters march into Brazil’s Congress

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Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s defeated right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on Sunday, causing a crisis for the new left-wing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, just a week into his presidency.

Social media footage showed crowds vandalizing the interiors of the three Brasília institutions in scenes reminiscent of the invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump two years ago.

Dressed in the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag, the protesters have called for Lula’s victory to be overturned.

While the buildings were uninhabited, the burglaries will raise questions about the security of Brazil’s political and judicial institutions. The incident will also leave difficult decisions for Lula, who took over the presidency on promises to unite the nation but will now be under pressure to crack down on Bolsonaro’s radical supporters.

Protesters clash with police after storming Planalto’s presidential palace © AP

“There is no precedent in the history of our country for what these people have done. They must be punished. And we will find out who the financiers of these vandals are,” said Lula, who was outside the capital on Sunday, visiting a city in São Paulo state that was hit by the recent floods.

“They will all pay with the force of the law for this irresponsible act, this anti-democratic act, this act by vandals and fascists.”

Television footage showed police firing stun grenades and using pepper spray on protesters, who then stormed barricades and climbed a ramp to the roof of Parliament alongside the building’s iconic white double domes. A video clip also circulated that appeared to show a mounted police officer being thrown from his horse after being violently assaulted by a group of rioters.

The incidents came after protesters poured into the capital in busloads on Sunday.

New Defense Minister José Múcio Monteiro will be questioned over his delicate treatment of activists who refuse to accept Bolsonaro’s defeat and who have been camping out in front of military bases across the country for months calling for a coup d’état. They claim without evidence that the vote was rigged and accuse the chief justices of political bias and censorship.

“This absurd attempt to use force to enforce will will not prevail,” Flavio Dino, Brazil’s justice and public security minister, said Sunday night as police attempted to clear the compound.

A Bolsonaro supporter waves a Brazilian national flag out of a window after storming the Planalto presidential palace © AP

Prominent lawmakers and Lula allies condemned the actions as an attack on democracy.

Rodrigo Pacheco, Senate spokesman, posted on social media: “I vehemently oppose these anti-democratic acts that urgently need to face the rigors of the law.”

Gleisi Hoffman, leader of Lula’s Labor Party, accused the public safety authorities of the federal district, where Brasília is located, of irresponsibility.

“It is a crime announced against democracy, against the will of voters and against other interests. [The] Governor and his security secretary are responsible for what is happening,” she wrote on Twitter.

Shortly after the attacks, the governor of Brasília announced that his security secretary had been fired.

Bolsonaro bucked tradition by not attending Lula’s inauguration last week, traveling to Florida instead.

Like his former US counterpart Trump, Bolsonaro has long expressed doubts about the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system. His political party filed a lawsuit against the rejected election result.

The former president has not commented on the attacks. Valdemar Costa Neto, leader of Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party, said the rioters “do not represent Bolsonaro.”

Additional reporting by Carolina Ingizza

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