Lula’s re-election and the attempted coup on Brazilian democracy

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Thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed into Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Presidential Palace in the capital city of Brazil, Brasilia. 

The attempted coup to overthrow the newly established left-wing government of President Lula is an unprecedented episode in Brazilian history. Thousands of protesters stormed into three key government buildings, vandalizing, and destroying everything in their way. Just like Trump’s supporters did at Capitol Hill almost exactly two years ago, on the 6th of January 2021. 

Brazil has been in turmoil since the election results were announced in late October 2022. Bolsonaro never publicly accepted defeat, and after the results were announced he did not comment, possibly signalling to his supporters the election was fraudulent. 

This strategy seems to come directly from Trump’s playbook; indeed Bolsonaro is referred to as the “Trump of the tropics.” The former US President used the same strategy after his 2020 defeat against Joe Biden, which led to the insurrection at Capitol Hill. 

It had been 152 years since a President of the United States had skipped the inauguration of his successor and it only happened four times in history. The symbolic act demonstrates the refusal to accept the new opponent’s mandate as legitimate and could result in Bolsonaro being identified by the investigation as having incited the mob that attempted the coup. 

Despite many of Bolsonaro’s supporters claiming the election was rigged, there is a complete lack of evidence or reason why. When Bolsonaro appealed the election results last year, the claims were rejected by the electoral authorities. 

The January 6th insurrection in the US shares very similar characteristics to the attempted golpe in Brasilia, including a subtle incitement from far-right politicians through baseless PR strategies encompassing fake news, half-truths, misinformation, and deception.

Image Credit: Tyler Merbler on Flickr

They gained the loyalty of misinformed voters that bought into the narrative that the election was rigged and had been unfairly taken away from them and their candidate. The dissatisfaction with the results led to substantial protests around the country and sustained protests in Brasilia that culminated with the attempted overthrow of the one-week-long government.

The former Brazilian president left the country just before Lula’s official investiture, possibly foreseeing the decision of the Supreme Court to investigate him for inciting the mob. However, following the Supreme Court’s investigation, his stay in the US is at risk. 

Forty-five House Democrats have called on President Biden to revoke his diplomatic visa to stay in the US. His involvement in the attempted coup is under investigation and thus still uncertain, however, President Lula claimed he was involved. 

Despite the accusations, Bolsonaro tweeted condemning the assault and denying his involvement. Lula, who was not in the capital city at the time of the assault, quickly responded to the events and called the thousands of people involved “fanatical fascists”, and he said that they “will be found and punished.” Over 1,500 people have already been arrested.

Lula has also voiced concern over the role of the military police of the federal district, which Brasilia is part of and their inaction during the attempted coup. Videos have emerged showing police officers taking pictures and talking to the protesters just outside the Congress. 

Lula added that he believes many people in the military were complicit and helped the mob gain access to the building, because the doors were not broken. 

On January 1, Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, candidate of the Worker’s Party, once again became President of Brazil. The new president, commonly referred to as Lula, has already been President from 2003-2010, when, following corruption charges he was arrested, detained, and prohibited from running in the 2018 election that saw Bolsonaro win.

He spent 500 days in prison, until the Supreme Court annulled his conviction, and allowed him to stand for election again which led him to the presidential victory in 2022. Lula and his supporters are convinced that his detention was politically motivated and interestingly the judge that convicted Lula was given a ministerial position in Bolsonaro’s government.

Following the attempted golpe, the Brazilian people have taken to the streets in a demonstration of support for their newly elected President and to reiterate their full support for democracy in Brazil.

Featured Image Credit: Matheus Câmara da Silva on Unsplash

Ludovico Caminati Engstrom
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