Brasilia, Jan 8 (EFE).- Brazil’s president has vowed to punish radical supporters who stormed Brasilia’s congress, the presidential palace and the supreme court on Sunday in the biggest attack on Republican powers seen since the 1964 coup.
Seven days after the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, hundreds of ultra-right followers of former leader Jair Bolsonaro rioted inside the buildings while the head of state was visiting the flood-hit city of Araraquara, in Sao Paulo state.
Lula returned to the capital and inspected first-hand the trail of destruction left at Planalto presidential palace, according to television images.
The rioters allegedly stole firearms stored in the Institutional Security Cabinet, in the palace. Minister of Social Communication, Paulo Pimenta, showed in a video two empty firearms cases on top of a partially burned sofa.
Deputy Wadih Damous, who accompanied the minister on the tour, stressed that the thieves “had information” about what was kept in that office, since they took weapons, ammunition and documents.
Furniture was destroyed and thrown out of the windows into the street, and after the attack, officials found torn paintings, and damaged computers, printers and televisions lying on the floor of the offices, according to videos recorded by Pimenta.
The mob did not enter Lula’s office in Planalto Palace because the police arrived at that moment, official sources told EFE.
Authorities have not yet been able to make an assessment of the extensive damage.
On Sunday, perched on the ramp of Congress, the extremists chanted slogans asking for the intervention of the military, which remained silent and still.
They do not recognize the result of the elections on Oct. 30, in which Lula defeated Bolsonaro by a narrow margin of less than two percentage points.
At least 300 people have been arrested, according to preliminary information, although Justice Minister Flávio Dino said that there will be more arrests in the coming hours for “terrorist acts.”
The attack against the institutions received unanimous condemnation from all levels in Brazil and also from the United States and governments across Latin America and Europe.
The protests were called by the Bolsonaro groups that have been camped in front of the military headquarters in Brasilia since the day after the elections.
In more than two months of rallies, the radicals have staged several violent events, including an attack on a police headquarters and a frustrated attempt to plant an explosive near the Brasilia airport two weeks ago.
On Sunday, thousands of radicals traveled by bus from other parts of the country to join the protesters encouraging a coup.
Dressed in Brazilian flags and green and yellow T-shirts, they headed for the center of Brasilia in the middle of the afternoon and broke through a small police cordon set up on the Esplanade of the Ministries without incident.
They stormed congress and then the supreme court and Planalto Palace, all located around the Plaza de los Tres Poderes.
Given the inaction of the capital’s police, they broke the windows of palace buildings, considered World Heritage Sites, and invaded them causing destruction inside.
The federal government is to take control of policing in Brasilia until Jan. 31
Lula ordered the federal government to take control of policing in Brasilia until Jan. 31 and riot police, using tear gas and stun bombs, took control some four-and-a-half hours after the start of the attack.
In a statement from Araraquara, Lula said that there was “incompetence” and “bad faith” on the part of those responsible for security in Brasilia, who depend on the administration of Governor Ibaneis Rocha, an ally of Bolsonaro.
The president blamed the situation on Bolsonaro’s speeches and assured that the “fascists” will be brought to justice, as well as the financiers of the attack.
“They took advantage of the silence on Sunday, when we are still setting up the government, to do what they did. And you know that there are several speeches by the former president encouraging this. And this is also his responsibility and the parties that supported him,” Lula wrote on Twitter.
“Whoever did this will be found and punished. Democracy guarantees the right to free expression, but it also requires people to respect institutions. There is no precedent in the history of the country what they did today. For that they must be punished.”
Secretary of Security of Brasilia, Anderson Torres, who was Bolsonaro’s justice minister, was removed from his post.
Bolsonaro later took to social media to make a statement.
“Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that he rejected Lula’s claims he was responsible.
However, Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, said in a statement that “this attack is the culmination of a years-long campaign by former president Jair Bolsonaro and his allies to undermine democratic principles and spread baseless claims of electoral fraud.”
The riot brought to mind the violence at the US Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, when enraged supporters of then-president Donald Trump – with his encouragement – invaded the Capitol building in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s election win.
Trump maintains a friendly relationship with Bolsonaro, who is currently in Orlando, Florida, to where he traveled two days before Lula’s inauguration without a return ticket.
US President Joe Biden also condemned “the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.”
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres also condemned the “assault on Brazil’s democratic institutions.”
“The will of the Brazilian people and the country’s institutions must be respected. I am confident that it will be so. Brazil is a great democratic country,” he tweeted. EFE