Wed, 01 Feb 2023

Brasilia Riots: What We Know

Voice of America
14 Jan 2023, 16:06 GMT+10

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL - Thousands of opponents of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stormed the seats of power in Brazil's capital Sunday, fired up by anti-communist rhetoric and misinformation about election fraud.

Here's what we know.

Rioters arrested

In all, the Federal Police detained 1,843 people after the riots.

Most of them were taken from an encampment outside the army headquarters in the capital, where they had been protesting for two months, clamoring for the military to prevent Lula's inauguration, which went ahead Jan. 1.

According to the latest update by the Federal Police, 1,159 remained under arrest Wednesday after 684, many of them old or ill, parents of young children and homeless people, were released to await trial in freedom.

Police from the district of Brasilia arrested another 209 on the day of the uprising.

Charges against the rioters include terrorism, criminal association, involvement in an attack against the democratic state, participation in an attempted coup d'etat and incitement to crime.

Countering claims of mistreatment, the police said hundreds of detainees received three meals and a snack every day and had access to medical care.

More than 430 were seen by doctors and 33 taken to health facilities.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said Friday court appearances have started, without providing details.

Top officials

The Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants for Brasilia security chief Anderson Torres, a former Bolsonaro justice minister, for alleged 'collusion' with the rioters.

Torres, who is in the United States, has until Monday to hand himself over or face extradition proceedings.

Already in custody is Fabio Augusto, who led the military police in Brasilia and, like Torres, was fired after the uprising.

The Supreme Court has also ordered an inquiry into the conduct of Brasilia governor Ibaneis Rocha and his interim public security secretary Fernando de Sousa Oliveira.

Rocha was relieved of his duties for 90 days.

Lula and Dino have said the violence could not have happened without collusion from members of the security forces. An investigation is under way.


The attorney general's office has identified 52 individuals and seven companies suspected of having helped pay for the uprising.

According to national broadcaster TV Globo, the suspects included leaders in the pro-Bolsonaro agro-business sector.

They are thought to have paid for the food and transport of rioters who arrived in Brasilia from several regions of the country on about 100 passenger buses.

Investigations are ongoing to track down other masterminds and financiers.


The extent of the damage has yet to be determined in monetary terms, but many of the items trashed when rioters broke into the presidency, Congress and Supreme Court are irreplaceable parts of Brazil's cultural heritage.

The buildings, all designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer, were damaged, including smashed windows, broken furniture, burned and scratched floors and walls burnt, and facades scarred by anti-Lula graffiti.

The capital is on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

In an initial report of damage, Brazil's Iphan heritage institute documented a seemingly never-ending trail of destruction.

Most of the building damage was reversible, it said, but individual items may not be salvageable.

Among the most iconic items damaged were the modernist canvas As Mulatas painted by Di Cavalcanti, and the sculpture A Justica by Alfredo Ceschiatti.

Many paintings, busts, statues, ceramic vases and pieces of antique furniture were also defaced.

UNESCO has offered its help in restoring damaged artworks.

Driving force

Bolsonaro had done his best on the campaign trail to raise the specter of communism under leftist Lula, who served two previous presidential terms from 2003-10.

He also hammered repeatedly on Lula's graft conviction, which has been overturned.

Long before the election, Bolsonaro sought to cast doubt, without showing any evidence, on the credibility of Brazil's internationally hailed electoral system.

When he did lose, millions were left fearful of Lula and the left, and distrustful of his victory.

'All we want is freedom,' one arrested rioter told AFP.

Experts say disinformation, much of it spread by Bolsonaro himself, was in large part responsible for the radicalization of the anti-Lula faction in Brazil.

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