Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters failed in a Trumpian plot to overthrow democracy. President Lula must make sure they never succeed
The storming of the three branches of Brazilian government is the most significant threat to the country’s democracy since the end of its dictatorship in 1985. Rioters ransacked Brazil’s Congress, its presidential palace and its top court in the capital, Brasília. They had been led to believe false claims by Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right populist, that last October’s presidential election had been stolen by the victor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. They hoped to trigger a military intervention by tapping into pro-Bolsonaro sentiment in the armed forces. Mercifully, this did not materialise. Far-right protesters ended up being arrested by the very soldiers whose arrival they had cheered.
President Lula, the 77-year-old leader of the Workers’ party, will now need all his considerable political skills to navigate a dangerously divided nation. His immediate – and understandable – reaction was to call protesters “vandals, neo-fascists and fanatics”. He singled out Mr Bolsonaro, with good reason, for “inciting” the invasion. The blueprint looks to have been the January 6 US Capitol attack by a mob of supporters of Donald Trump. But while Mr Trump whipped up the crowd personally to rush the US Congress weeks before his opponent Joe Biden took office, Mr Bolsonaro fled Brazil and spent inauguration day in Florida. He has yet to concede defeat in October’s election. He did condemn Sunday’s violence but not the goal that inspired it.