Brazil’s jailed former justice minister says he properly prepared a security strategy ahead of January 8 attacks

By February 3, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s jailed former justice minister told investigators on Thursday that, while acting as Secretary of Public Safety of the capital Brasília on January 8, he developed an adequate security scheme that was not followed by capital police, resulting in thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro breaching the grounds of the country’s government headquarters. 

At the time of the attacks, the former minister, Anderson Torres, was serving as the capital’s head of public security and the attorney general’s office accused him of being “responsible for acts and omissions” leading to the attack on the government headquarters. 

Bolsonaro supporters had been camping out on the streets of Brasília for months in front of military barracks in an effort to persuade the military to intervene in the country’s elections following Bolsonaro’s October 30 loss to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

On January 8, thousands of supporters had gathered in front of government offices that house the country’s Supreme Court, Congress and official presidential offices. The rioters stormed police barricades and were met with little resistance, easily entering the government headquarters where they created millions of dollars in damages. 

Torres, who was in Orlando, Florida on vacation on January 8, flew back to Brazil on January 14 and was immediately arrested by authorities. 

He’s being held in a police unit on the outskirts of Brasília where Federal Police questioned him for about 10 hours on Thursday. 

During his testimony, he said that two days before the attacks, he received an intelligence report about the possibility of demonstrations by Bolsonaro supporters being held on January 8, but the information did not mention any threats of radical violence.

He said that based on the report, he established a security protocol and said that if the police would have followed through on the plan, the attacks and looting on the government headquarters wouldn’t have occurred. 

Brazil’s Former Justice Minister, Anderson Torres (Tom Costa/MJSP courtesy)

According to him, the plan contained the following guidelines: “Do not allow access by people and vehicles to Praça dos Três Poderes as discussed in the meeting and in the protocol of actions; maintain reinforcement of personnel in the adjacencies and internal perimeter of the public buildings and of the entire extension of the esplanade of the Ministries, National Congress and in Praça dos Três Poderes.

Torres also claims “not to have received any element of information that could conclude the practice of sabotage, but he can certainly conclude that there was a serious failure in the operational execution of the plan”.

Trip to Orlando and an alleged coup declaration

In his testimony, Torres also addressed other issues investigators and the Brazilian public are eager to learn about related to the former government’s role in the attacks. 

He said that his trip to Orlando was a coincidence and wasn’t related to Bolsonaro’s vacation in the city, where the former president has been staying since December 30 when he left Brazil, forgoing traditional transfer of power celebrations at Lula’s inauguration. 

“The trip had nothing to do with Bolsonaro; that it did not suit him and that when the tickets were issued, he was not even aware that the president was going to the United States; one did not know about the other’s trip and they did not meet,” the testimony read.

Police unit where former minister Anderson Torres is imprisoned (Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil courtesy)

Torres also discredited the legitimacy of a document found by investigators in his house following the January 8 attacks. The document appeared to be a draft decree to overturn the results of the election by establishing a “state of defense” for Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court.

About the draft, Anderson Torres said in his statement that: “He has no idea who prepared the document, he took notice from the press that other people received documents of similar content, he is unaware of the circumstances in which it was produced, the document was not forwarding it to anyone and expressly declared that he had never brought such a document to the attention of former President Bolsonaro.”

Crimes the former minister of justice are accused of committing include: a coup d’état on Brazil’s government, criminal association, and supporting terrorism. A full copy of his testimony can be read in Portuguese here.