Bolsonaro supporters attack Brazil police headquarters, political experts say little risk to democracy overall

By December 16, 2022

São Paulo, Brazil — In the most violent act since his defeat at the polls, supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro attacked the Federal Police building in Brasilia, the country’s capital, set fire to at least eight cars and buses and vandalized stores and other property.

The group revolted after the arrest of a Bolsonaro supporter, an indigenous pastor named José Acácio Tserere Xavante, who is accused of anti-democratic acts by the authorities.

Security was tightened in Brasilia on Monday, especially because the acts of violence happened near the hotel where the president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was staying. 

Even so, no one was arrested and the attacks lasted almost four hours on Monday night, the same day that Lula’s victory was officially certified by the Electoral Court.

Act of vandalism near the Federal Police. Image courtesy of Twitter/Reproduction

Despite the frightening scenes, political science professor Valdir Pucci does not believe that Brazilian democracy is at risk. 

“To prevent the inauguration of the elected president or even inflame the country in a situation of generalized violence, it’s necessary to have political support and mass support from the population, which is not the case,” the professor told Brazil Reports.

According to Pucci, the presence of authorities from all branches — the executive, legislative and judiciary —  at Lula’s certification ceremony makes it clear that there is no political strength for any type of coup in the country. 

Additionally, the professor pointed out that the most radical group of Bolsonaro supporters is made up of a small number of people compared to the majority of Brazilians, who want stability in the country and defend democracy.

“Since 1988, after the re-democratization of Brazil, we have never seen scenes like those of Brasília during an electoral process, since the president-elect has not yet taken office. What I see is a group of criminals who don’t have a basic understanding of what democracy is,” Pucci said.

Lack of action by the government

While riots were taking place, officials from the Bolsonaro government, who are currently running the country, remained relatively quiet, while incoming government officials took measures to protect the incoming president.

According to news reports, Brazil’s current justice minister, Anderson Torres, took to Twitter two hours after the riots began, claiming that the situation was under control. Bolsonaro himself has yet to comment on the violence in the streets. 

The next Minister of Justice Flávio Dino next to President-elect Lula. Image courtesy of Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Incoming justice minister, Flávio Dino, gave a press conference on the matter and reportedly communicated with local authorities in Brasília near the hotel where Lula was staying. 

More decisive action by the current government to quell the protests was lacking, according to professorPucci.

He said that a political response to the scenes of violence was necessary, in addition to the work of the police.

“Those who still have the responsibility of administering the country have not condemned or disapproved of the acts, which may even stimulate new episodes of violence from people who have been encouraged over the past four years to doubt the election result,” he said.

Insufficient response from police

In addition to criticizing the government’s lack of action, Rafael Alcadipani, a member of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, an NGO that gathers information on crime and public security, called out the police for their leniency in dealing with the acts of violence carried out by Bolsonaro supporters. 

“It is completely unacceptable for acts of vandalism to be carried out, for people to set fire to public property, for them to try to invade a building belonging to an institution as important as the Federal Police,” Alcadipani told Brazil Reports. “There is a lack of more effective action by the police, both in the investigation and in bringing civil and criminal responsibility to people who attack democracy.” 

He also called Justice Minister Torres’ response to the protesters “conniving and lenient.” “The minister’s posture also puts the federal police officers at risk,” he said.

A car set on fire by Bolsonaro supporters at a gas station in Brasilia. Image courtesy of Twitter/Reproduction