Global News in Brief - Supporters of Brazil’s Former President Jair Bolsonaro Stage Failed Coup

On Sunday 8th January, thousands of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in the nation’s capital of Brasilia.

Authorities say that their goal was to overturn Bolsonaro’s loss in the October elections.

In the first round of Brazil’s general election, neither incumbent Bolsonaro or rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) received more than 50% of the vote, triggering a runoff. Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro to become President, and became the first candidate to be elected for a third term. Bolsonaro, therefore, became Brazil’s first ever incumbent president to lose an election.

Supporters of Bolsonaro refused to accept the result of the elections, and were incensed by the Tweets and publications of the former president, who preached the importance of ‘truth’ to his supporters in the weeks following the election results. 

On January 8th, thousands of his supporters gathered outside the army headquarters in Brasilia, chanting “End Congress,” before marching to the Congress building, the Presidential Palace and the Supreme Court. At approximately 3pm, the mob of supporters reached the parliament, and used violence to overpower the police force and break through barricades, storming the congress building with relative ease.

Shortly after, rioters ran towards the Presidential Offices and ransacked the building, breaking windows, tables, chairs and destroying offices. Meanwhile, more protesters stormed the Supreme Court, destroying works of art and a replica of the constitution. At around 6pm, the entire contingent of security forces were deployed to take back control of the buildings, making more than 1,500 arrests.

As everything unfolded, Bolsonaro was thousands of miles away in Florida. During his tenure as President, he was criticised for constantly undermining Brazilian democracy. In the build-up to last year’s elections, Bolsonaro repeatedly made unfounded claims that criticised the credibility of electronic voting, which has been in use since 1996. He has repeatedly used threatening rhetoric, declaring “An armed population will never be enslaved,” before later saying “if need be, we will go to war.” Bolsonaro is to be investigated as part of an inquiry into the attempted coup.

At present, 39 people have been charged for their involvement, and for armed criminal association, violent attempt to subvert the democratic state of law, staging a coup and damage to public property.