On January 8, 2023, a pro-fascist crowd tried to incite a coup against the recently elected and former President of Brazil, Luis Ignacio "Lula" da Silva from the Workers’ Party (PT), by attacking critical government facilities in Brasilia, just one week after his inauguration. By the morning of January 9, this endeavour had failed.
The offices of the three arms of government in Brasilia, the nation’s capital, were invaded and seized by tens of thousands of Jair Bolsonaro's supporters. The demonstrators requested a military takeover to remove and arrest the President. This invasion in Brasilia is only the most recent manifestation of Bolsonaro and his fascist supporters' plot against Brazilian democracy. The former president, together with his Liberal Party (PL), refused to accept Lula's victory and instigated a violent effort to challenge the results.
While being aware of the January 8 preparations in advance and having watched the fascists organising it for months, the police in Brasilia knowingly enabled this plot. O Estado de São Paulo, the third largest paper in Brazil, reported the day before the coup attempt that government assessments showed that thousands of individuals were travelling in buses to Brasilia for a Sunday protest against Lula's elected government. According to the same outlet, details were also made public on Bolsonaro-supporting social media outlets since Jan.3.
These individuals, who had travelled by bus from different regions of the nation, joined a smaller gathering of fascist Bolsonaro supporters camping out in front of the Army headquarters in Brasilia since November. The Bolsonaro administration's executives fostered this encampment, which acted as the administrative hub for concerted efforts to overthrow the election results. One of them involved a terrorist plot that included a botched bombing attempt on December 24 at the airport in Brasilia.
The demonstrators marched to the Praça dos Três Poderes at around 2:00 p.m. from their tent at the Army headquarters (Three Powers Plaza). They gained control of the Congress before 3 p.m. and the Presidential Palace and Supreme Court shortly after.
More than three hours after the invasion began, the fanatics were still turning out to support their terrorist actions, according to reporters from Estado de São Paulo who were present. Squads of police stood by as intruders crossed in front of them, doing nothing to stop them. On social media, supporters shared videos of military police personnel joking about and taking photographs with fascist protesters as they seized governmental institutions.
Condemning the collaboration between the mob and the Federal District government, PT leader Gleisi Hoffman stated, "what is happening in Brasilia is not a mass movement, nor is it spontaneous. It is organised by bandits who have very objective interests: illegal mining, land grabbing, weapons release, militias and other things, all blessed by Bolsonaro. They all despise democracy, institutions".
Late in the afternoon, Lula stepped out, denouncing the assault and ordering federal intervention in the Federal District (DF), transferring the responsibility of the security forces from state governor Ibaneis Rocha of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) to the federal government directly. "Fanatical fascists", according to Lula, were responsible for the attack. According to him, "this genocidal [Bolsonaro]... not only stimulated this but, who knows, is still stimulating it through social media... from Miami, where he went to rest. Where he ran away so as not to deliver me the presidential sash."
Bolsonaro, or the "Trump of the tropics", was apparently in Orlando, Florida, evading prosecution for his crimes as president. The fascist icon, who lost the October 30 runoff election by a slim but significant margin, in an attempt to publicly distance himself from what took place in Brasília, wrote on Twitter, "depredations and invasions of public buildings such as occurred today, as well as those practised by the left in 2013 and 2017, go beyond the rule."
In trying to distance himself from the events in Brasilia, Bolsonaro is emulating Trump's public stance on January 6, 2021. And, much like January 6 and Trump, these most recent actions are inextricably linked to the overall scheme to overthrow the elections, which Bolsonaro personally organised and oversaw.
Lula stated that those in charge of the "public security of the Federal District" on Sunday and in other recent incidents acted with "bad will or bad faith" as he announced the federal intervention in Brasilia. According to Lula, Anderson Torres, the Federal District's secretary of security, has a "reputation of connivance with the demonstrations" that is "known to all".
Torres has fled to the United States, much like Bolsonaro. Lula's government has now ordered that the Federal Supreme Court (STF) immediately place Torres and everyone else who participated in Sunday's acts under arrest through its legal counsel, the Attorney General's office. Late that night, the STF ruled that they would dismiss Governor Ibaneis Rocha after 90 days.
"Absolutely nothing justifies the dereliction of duty of the Federal District police chief [Anderson Torres] and governor [Ibaneis Rocha], and their collusion with criminals who announced beforehand their intention to commit violent acts against the government," said magistrate Alexandre de Moraes.
Although Lula claims his administration took steps "to guarantee once and for all that this will never happen again in Brazil," these actions hardly scratch the surface. A significant portion of the forces behind the fascist attacks in Brazil on January 8 and in the months prior still hold influential positions within the state apparatus and even on Lula's staff. Particularly egregious is José Múcio Monteiro, Lula's minister of defence.
Múcio went to the protesters' camp in front of the Army headquarters the day of the occupation to look it over and "get a sense" of how they were feeling. Just moments before the storming of Congress, Poder360 reported speaking with the minister, who said the demonstration was "for now, calm."
Amazingly accurately replicating the attack on the US Congress on January 6, 2021, the Brazilian National Congress, the Planalto presidential palace, and the Supreme Court building was stormed. These three institutions house Brazil's capitalist democracy. The fascist mob in Brasilia attacked these structures in support of former president Jair Bolsonaro. Despite having no proof, the Bolsonarists maintained there had been electoral fraud.
Bolsonaro has made it clear that he has drawn political inspiration from the failed fascist takeover in the US. Then-President Bolsonaro declared in January 2021 his desire to carry out his version of Trump's electoral coup while his son, Eduardo, was invited to watch the proceedings personally in Washington. In his words, Brazil's elections would provide "worse problems than the United States".
Left-wing leaders from across Latin America have denounced the fascist coup as a violent attempt to overthrow the will of the Brazilian people, including Bolivian President Luis Arce, ex-President Evo Morales, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Honduran President Xiomara Castro, Uruguayan ex-President José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano, as well as officials from Cuba, Chile, China, Venezuela and many other nations around the world.
Venezuela's legitimate, constitutional government was present at Lula's inauguration in Brazil, which was a significant shift. Brazil's previously far-right leader Bolsonaro officially broke diplomatic relations with Venezuela, recognising US coup puppet Juan Guaido and sponsoring terror attacks on Venezuela.
Colombia's President Gustavo Petro names some of the recent coups against democratically elected left-wing leaders in Latin America: Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012), Brazil (2016), Bolivia (2019) and now Peru, where protests have led to the murder of indigenous and working-class peoples.
Along with his successor Dilma Rousseff, Lula was previously the victim of a far-right coup. He decided to run for office soon after his release from jail and the reversal of the false accusations that had led to his detention prior to the 2018 election. The most powerful media, the Brazilian capitalist class, the leaders of evangelical churches, and the resentment of the police and military all opposed him vehemently. Along with a hostile legislature, right-wing state administrations close to Brazil's border, and the danger posed by fascist Bolsonaro-supporting crowds. Yet, Lula succeeded, despite these challenges.
The victory of Lula and the memories of his first and second administrations offered Brazilian workers, farmers, the Afro-Brazilian community, women, and LGBT+ Brazilians hope for a better future. However, the attack in Brasilia served as a warning. Elections can reveal the political consciousness of the underclass and working class, but the ruling class continues to control the army, judiciary, and police.
After retaking their headquarters, officials of the Lula government reported that the protesters stole weapons and ammunition from the Institutional Security Office (GSI). Time will tell what plans the fascists have for Brazil's future, and with support from the US, Canada, and other liberal democracies, it is only a matter of time until they retake power unless they are crushed.
The Brazilian working class has every right to mobilise and unite all sections of the Brazilian people to defend the Lula government against the fascist threat. And the Brazilian left deserves the solidarity of all worldwide who oppose militarism and fascist rule.
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