Brazil insurrection seen as eerily similar to Jan. 6 attack on US Capitol

Many are comparing the violent Brazilian riots to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where supporters of Donald Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.

President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have made plans to strengthen U.S.-Brazil ties after the country recently experienced an attack similar to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection that took place in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, Jan. 8, followers of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the nation’s Congress, Supreme Court and the presidential palace in an attempt to strip Lula of his presidential authority, The Associated Press reported.

FILE – Protesters, supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

In October 2022, Lula defeated Bolsonaro; however, Bolsonaro – an ally of Donald Trump who infamously earned the title “Trump of the Tropics” – refused to accept defeat and cited voter fraud in a similar fashion to the former U.S. president. 

Despite the fact the right-wing politician has yet to present evidence of voter fraud, Bolsonaro’s supporters believe the election was stolen and tried to intervene on his behalf in the attacks in Brazil last weekend.

Dr. Ollie Johnson, chair of the department of African-American studies at Wayne State University, told theGrio Sunday was “a direct attack” on progressive politicians and the “possibility for progress in the future.”

He explained, “Many Brazilians, especially Brazilian conservative leaders are uncomfortable with the possibility that more progress could be made [under Lula’s leadership] and that workers, women, Black Brazilians could be empowered for the first time in history.”

Johnson says that Lula has the backing of Black leaders and politicians, which is important because the South American nation’s population is majority Black.

“Lula has tried to diversify his cabinet and try to make strategic appointments of Black leaders and Black activists to be more inclusive, to create a more inclusive government as he pursues poverty reduction and equality, social and racial equality policies,” he said.

Many are comparing the violent Brazilian riots to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where supporters of Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election results to transfer presidential power from Trump to then-President-elect Joe Biden. The reality of two democratic nations seeing a direct assault on the fundamental system of voting points to a broader concern about the state of democracy on the international stage.

FILE – Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol as they riot in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

On Monday, Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jointly condemned the Jan. 8 attack “on Brazil’s democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power.”

In a statement provided by the White House, all three leaders said, “We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions. Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil. We look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond.”

Coincidentally, back in Washington on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the new ambassador to Brazil, Elizabeth Bagley. At the end of the ceremony, when asked by theGrio if she was concerned that what happened in Brazil could become a norm in democratic nations, Harris said the violent riots were an “obvious and clear attack on a democratic process – and we condemn it.” 

Several members of Congress took to Twitter to condemn the actions of pro-Bolsonaro protesters.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted, “Nearly 2 years to the day the U.S. Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad attempt to do the same in Brazil.”

House Minority Leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. posted, “The violent attack on the heart of the Brazilian government by right-wing extremists is a sad but familiar sight. We stand with the people of Brazil and democracy.”

Freshman Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost, and the youngest member of Congress, tweeted, “On the heels of the two year anniversary of January 6, it’s deeply disturbing to see similar images come out of Brazil.” He continued, “Brazil’s violent protests are the result of a former president who idolized Donald Trump more than anything. And now Brazil’s democracy and people will pay the price.”

Former President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks at a rally Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Despite the attempted coup, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that “the democratic institutions of Brazil will hold, the will of the people of Brazil will be respected, the freely-elected leader of Brazil will govern Brazil and will not be deterred or knocked off course by the actions of these people who have assaulted the instruments of governance.”

He added, “We think Brazilian democracy is resilient, strong, and will come through this.”

Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization based in the United Kingdom that focuses on human rights, wants to see a “prompt, impartial and effective” investigation into Brazil’s insurrection to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.

In a statement provided to theGrio, Amnesty International said, “The invasion and depredation of public buildings, the destruction of documents, violations of the security and physical integrity of journalists who follow the events and agents of the security forces who were attacked by extremists must be investigated.”

(AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attend a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is hosting President Bolsonaro for a visit and bilateral talks at the White House today. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

Bolsonaro has been living in Orlando, Florida since December 2022 and many people, like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, are calling for the former Brazilian leader to be extradited by the U.S. and sent back to his home country. Shortly after the invasion, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “The U.S. must cease granting refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

Sullivan told reporters on Monday that U.S. officials have not be in direct contact with the former president of Brazil and are not clear of his whereabouts. “We have not as of now received any official requests from the Brazilian government related to Bolsonaro. Of course, if we did receive such requests, we’d treat them the way we always do: We’d treat them seriously,” he asserted.

Johnson told theGrio that he believes Bolsonaro will eventually return to Brazil on his own. However, he is not “optimistic that he will be held accountable for his anti-democratic actions, his casting doubt on the legitimacy of the elections, his celebration of the military dictatorship, his racist and sexist and anti-gay remarks. 

He continued: “I think, unfortunately, there is a popular social base [in Brazil] for those perspectives, for those views.”

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