Brazil's police may have allowed attacks
Jan. 11, 2023
Brazilian authorities now believe a significant portion of the security forces present at Brasília’s Plaza of Three Powers on Sunday, when thousands of anti-government protesters violently attacked government buildings — were in “collusion” with the rioters. The loyalty of rank-and-file officers to former President Jair Bolsonaro has long been a concern for analysts focused on the potential for challenges to Brazil’s democracy.
The insurrection “was a well-organised coup attempt that was thwarted thanks to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s swift and firm reaction,” Minister of Institutional Relations Alexandre Padilha told the Guardian.
Government officials said protesters and security forces sought to cause enough chaos to trigger Brazil’s Guarantee of Law and Order, which would allow the military to assert control of the capital. Communications Minister Paulo Pimenta told the Washington Post that police began to arrest rioters only after it became clear that there would be no military takeover and that Lula would declare federal control of the capital’s security forces. He singled out the presidential guard for failing to act.
Authorities have also pointed fingers at Anderson Torres, former President Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister and Brasília’s public security chief until he was fired on Sunday. In fact, during the attacks Torres was not even in Brazil, rather he was in Florida, where Bolsonaro travelled to hours before his mandate ended earlier this month. (Reuters)
Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the arrest, yesterday, of Torres and Col. Fábio Augusto, commander of Brasília’s military police.
Brazilian officials are now focusing on the political and business elites suspected of inspiring, organizing or aiding the rioters, reports the New York Times. The country’s agriculture industry, strong supporters of Bolsonaro, are believed by government officials of playing a role.
Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino said yesterday that investigators have identified several business executives suspected of financing the attack, including by renting about 40 buses to transport Bolsonaro supporters to the capital, and were seeking arrest warrants for “organizers.” Authorities are also expected to take action against more than 100 companies thought to have helped the protesters
And a top public prosecutor asked a federal court to freeze Bolsonaro’s assets in relation to the investigation into the riots, though it’s unclear whether the court has the legal power to do so.
Brazil’s senate voted, yesterday, to approve a decree signed by Lula to authorize federal intervention to maintain public security in the federal district until the end of the month. Several Bolsonaro loyalists voted against it.
Bolsonaro announced he will return to Brazil earlier than planned, as the U.S. Biden administration faces increasing pressure to expel the far-right leader. Calls note the similarities between last weekend’s riot in Brasília and the 2021 Jan. 6 Capitol attack in the U.S. (Associated Press)
Government officials are bracing for a new wave of protests by Bolsonaro supporters around the country, a key test of the anti-government movement’s strength. Authorities have ramped up security in Brasília and other major cities, reports the Washington Post.
High-profile digital influencers have joined pro-democracy politicians and Brazil’s law enforcement agencies in an attempt to identify insurrectionists who took part in Sunday’s attack, reports the Guardian.
“The striking similarities between events at the Capitol and Brasília stem from links fostered by the former presidents and their families,” writes Julian Borger in the Guardian.
Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez said her security team found an explosive near her family home in the embattled Cauca department. Márquez tweeted a picture of a homemade device with more than seven kilos of explosives, discovered by her security detail. Márquez, an environmental activist who won the Goldman Award in 2018, has been attacked with guns and grenades and threatened by phone in her long trajectory as a social leader. Colombian activists, like Márquez, have long been targets for violence by armed groups. (Reuters, El País)
Peru’s attorney general launched an inquiry into new President Dina Boluarte and members of her cabinet to investigate allegations of genocide, in relation to violent protests against her government in which 47 people have died in clashes with police. Security forces appear to be responsible for most of the deaths, and have been accused by protesters and human rights groups of using lethal force — firearms and smoke bombs dropped from helicopters — indiscriminately against civilians. (Reuters, AFP, New York Times)
Around the country, demonstrations intensified in 31 provinces in response to the violence and repression that left 18 people dead in Puno on Monday. Regional authorities declared Boluarte and several cabinet members persona non grata, reports El País. (See yesterday’s briefs.)
Boluarte’s cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Alberto Otárola won a congressional confidence vote, yesterday, by a wide margin. But critics questioned Congress for holding the vote in the wake of Monday’s violence, reports El País.
The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. met yesterday in the first day of the “Three Amigos” summit. (See yesterday’s post.) They underscored the cooperation among their governments and played down longstanding disagreements and tensions, especially over the economic competition in energy and emerging technologies like electric vehicles, reports the New York Times.
U.S. President Joe Biden has invested heavily in personal diplomacy with his Mexican counterpart, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in turn, “has realized how beneficial it is to be on friendly terms with the United States,” according to the New York Times.
Biden dismissed criticisms from the left and the right of his migration policy, and said he is pursuing a middle ground policy. (New York Times)
Zury Ríos is a favorite to win Guatemala’s presidential election this year. But the ultra-conservative lawmaker — daughter of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt — is a danger to democracy, according to critics. (Americas Quarterly)
Claudia Méndez Arriaza describes “Guatemala’s unique path toward authoritarianism,” in Americas Quarterly. “It has been not personalistic, but systemic … political power has resided largely in a web of alliances that dominates Congress and represents overlapping networks of elites, organized crime and other power brokers—what some in civil society call the “Pact of the Corrupt,” who all benefit from reduced transparency and accountability.”
Argentina 1985, a film on the country’s landmark trial of its former military dictatorship, won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in a non-English language, yesterday.