How the U.S. Capitol riot incites Brazil’s extremists

and . Jan 07, 2021
capitol riots brazil far-right Trump supporters protest in the U.S. Capitol building. Photo: Vasilis Asvestas/Shutterstock

The world looked on in shock as armed rioters — incited by outgoing President Donald Trump — forced their way into the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, in an attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying the results of the November 3 presidential election. Leaders around the world expressed their concerns about what the insurrection could mean for democracies around the world.

Indeed, analysts would be best served looking to Brazil for answers, as extremist groups have quickly found inspiration in the chaos seen in Washington DC. These fringe groups have already planned similar protests against local legislative bodies for later this month.

And they have been incited by none other than President Jair Bolsonaro himself. 

</p> <p>As we explained in <a href="">today&#8217;s Daily Briefing</a>, the Brazilian leader set himself apart from international counterparts yesterday and chose to reiterate his support for Mr. Trump and revived unproven claims that Brazil&#8217;s electoral system is <a href="">vulnerable to fraud</a>. One day later, he went one better, threatening that if Brazil continues to use its current electronic voting system in 2022, the country &#8220;will have an even worse problem than the U.S.&#8221;</p> <p>Multiple elected officials loyal to Mr. Bolsonaro used their <a href="">social media channels</a> to praise the invasion of the U.S. Capitol. &#8220;The demonstration is a display of insatisfaction of American citizens who were robbed of their right to choose. Losing a race is acceptable, but not to thieving scoundrels!&#8221; <a href="">said</a> Congressman Daniel Silveira, who famously destroyed a street sign honoring the assassinated Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco in an 2018 campaign event.</p> <p>While the Capitol was under siege by the armed mob, <a href="">Brazilian far-right groups online</a> called for similar acts at home. A coordinated effort to send millions of messages on underground WhatsApp Messenger groups began shortly after Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s statements.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1000" height="750" src="" alt="capitol riots washington" class="wp-image-54709" srcset=" 1000w, 300w, 768w, 600w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /><figcaption>Rioters smashed U.S. Capitol doors on their way into the building. Photo: Sebastian Portillo/Shutterstock</figcaption></figure> <h2>“Brazil will be on call”</h2> <p>Militants claim they simply plan to hold &#8220;<a href="">anti-communist demonstrations</a>,&#8221; asking citizens to prevent elected left-wing candidates from taking office in city councils and Congress. Protests have been scheduled for January 30 and February 2 — when Brazil&#8217;s federal Congress will hold leadership elections.</p> <p>&#8220;Brazil will be on call,&#8221; read one of the messages circulating on WhatsApp. Protesting the potential election of center-right Congressman Baleia Rossi as the new House Speaker, extremist groups claim they &#8220;do not want Baleia Rossi&#8217;s communism in Brazil.&#8221;</p> <p>Mr. Rossi has gained the support of some of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s biggest political foes, including incumbent <a href="">House Speaker Rodrigo Maia</a> and the center-left Workers&#8217; Party.</p> <p>Another demonstration is being planned for January 17 at the Ministries Esplanade in Brasília, to protest the country&#8217;s democratic institutions. &#8220;Communist justices, out of the Supreme Court! Corrupt politicians, out of Congress!&#8221; read one of the rallying cries.</p> <p>Unlike President Bolsonaro, the majority of Brazilian authorities who issued statements after the Capitol riot decried the events, referring to the invasion as an &#8220;act of despair&#8221; and &#8220;insurrection and contempt for the election results.&#8221;</p> <p>In behind-the-scenes conversations with <strong>The Brazilian Report </strong>between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, 12 sources from the Supreme Court, Superior Electoral Court, Congress, and the Armed Forces expressed their concern with events at the U.S. Capitol, saying that the riot serves as a &#8220;warning&#8221; for Brazil in coming years, due to the <a href="">similarities</a> between Mr. Bolsonaro and Donald Trump. “We cannot forget that Brazil&#8217;s president has always sought to be inspired by his U.S. counterpart. Bolsonarism feeds off of Trumpism,&#8221; said one Supreme Court justice.</p> <p>The connections between the two include their contempt for the electoral process, but the similarities do not end there. Both have fueled an &#8220;Us vs. Them&#8221; narrative in the public sphere, while disparaging national institutions. According to sources consulted by <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, Messrs. Trump and Bolsonaro have a propensity for restricting press freedoms and removing the media&#8217;s legitimacy.</p> <h2>Support from the barracks</h2> <p>There is one nefarious difference between the presidents of Brazil and the U.S., which has raised the alarm among officials in Brasília. Jair Bolsonaro has a rare affinity with the Brazilian military, <a href="">particularly middle-to-low ranking officers</a>, to whom he has ingratiated himself by dishing out a number of financial benefits. Donald Trump has no such support within the Armed Forces.</p> <p>Military sources assured that there is no possibility of Army, Navy, or Air Force commanders supporting a &#8220;coup,&#8221; &#8220;in any form or at any time.&#8221; Another source said that while Brazil&#8217;s democracy is comparatively much younger than that of the U.S., &#8220;the Army, Navy, and Air Force are ready to support and preserve it.&#8221;</p> <p>The concern, however, is not with the high command of the Armed Forces. Instead, it lies with the rank-and-file and state military police forces, who have <a href="">expressed unwavering support for Mr. Bolsonaro</a>.</p> <h2>More than words</h2> <p>Authorities within the Legislative and Judicial branches told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> that while Jair Bolsonaro tends to vary in the tone of his discourse, he always ends up issuing inflammatory declarations to incite his most radical supporters.</p> <p><a href="">In a cabinet meeting on April 22</a> — footage of which was made public as part of an unrelated investigation — President Bolsonaro declared that he &#8220;wants everyone to be armed. An armed people will never be enslaved.&#8221;</p> <p>On April 19, 2019, Mr. Bolsonaro climbed atop a pickup truck during an anti-democratic demonstration against Congress and the Supreme Court, rallying his most extremist supporters. The president himself threatened to <a href="">shut down the country&#8217;s highest court </a>during a private government meeting in May.</p> <p>&#8220;I&#8217;m going to intervene!&#8221; he said, according to sources present at the meeting. He threatened to remove all 11 of the Supreme Court&#8217;s justices, replacing them with his allies &#8220;until order is restored.&#8221;

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Débora Álvares

Débora Álvares has worked as a political reporter for newspapers Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo, Globo News, HuffPost, among others. She specializes in reporting on Brasilia, working behind-the-scenes coverage at the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government.

Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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