top of page

Echoes of January 6th: Protestors Storm the Brazilian Congress

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Founder and Chairman

The Congresso Nacional building - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised that perpetrators will be punished after supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress on Sunday. Thousands of people invaded the National Congress building in the capital, Brasilia, following Bolsonaro’s defeat to incumbent Lula in October last year. The election had been a close victory for President Lula, who won 50.9% of the vote, as opposed to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. The election was mired in controversy amid claims of electoral fraud, with outgoing President Bolsonaro refusing to concede defeat for a number of days.

Public unrest has been growing in the months since the election, with protests in late October blockading roads, highways and even the São Paulo/ Guarulhos International Airport. Supporters of the former President refuse to accept that the populist Bolsonaro had legitimately been defeated, and conspiracists have publicly called for the military to launch a coup to reinstate him.

Sunday’s events are a culmination of the unrest, disinformation, and political polarisation in Brazil. Footage shared online shows hundreds of people pouring into the Supreme Court, smashing windows, and vandalising the building. Protestors also entered the Presidential Palace building, highlighting huge security failures in the country.

President Lula has condemned the invasion vehemently. “We will find out who these vandals are, and they will be brought down with the full force of the law”, Lula said. The President was in Araraquara, visiting a flood-hit region when the events unfolded. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken released a tweet condemning the attacks, saying “Using violence to attack democratic institutions is always unacceptable”.

For many in the US, and for observers around the world, the attacks are reminiscent of the events of January 6th, 2021, whereby Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building in an act of protest against the 2020 election results. The tragic events saw over 138 police officers injured, with 5 people being killed in the incident. Like in Brazil, the Capitol insurrection was triggered by claims of electoral fraud, and a former President refusing to concede defeat.

Jair Bolsonaro was frequently lauded as a ‘Trump of the tropics’, for his far-right stances, and his close friendship with Donald Trump during their presidencies. Bolsonaro ran his original election campaign in 2018 on a controversial platform, looking to replicate the electoral success of Trump in the US. Famous for his national-conservatism, Bolsonaro is opposed to abortions and same-sex marriages, a climate change denier, and an apologist for Brazil’s former military dictatorships. Regardless, he won the 2018 election with a 55% majority, gaining over 57 million votes.

Ultimately, Bolsonaro had the same polarising effects on Brazil’s society as Donald Trump had in America. He espoused unapologetically misogynistic rhetoric and cracked down on civil rights groups. The former President also reversed a decade’s worth of environmental protection, rapidly accelerating deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during his tenure. Despite this, almost half the country supports the former President. His supporters admire the traditional Christian, family values he pushed in speeches and policy. Bolsonaro also initiated a brutal crackdown on crime, causing concern from civil rights organisations for the flagrant violations of human rights, but being widely popular with his supporters.

Bolsonaro supporters have demonstrated their unwavering devotion to the former President en-masse in the storming of Congress. Shocking videos depicting police officers being brutally beaten by protestors have flooded social media. The police seem to be struggling to regain control of the situation, and both mounted and armoured police have deployed teargas to disperse the crowds.

US Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has tweeted calling for Jair Bolsonaro’s extradition from the US. The former President has been living in Florida in recent weeks, fleeing Brazil in the face of investigations into his time in office. While there is no clear connection between the events unfolding and Bolsonaro, critics of the former President have been quick to lay the blame at his feet.

At the time of writing, the events are continuing to unfold, but ultimately, the situation that is unravelling in Brazil is a product of the polarisation in the country. It is a culmination of tensions which have been simmering for months across the nation. But regardless of political affiliation, they are an attack on the very democratic institutions Brazil has championed for decades. Attacks on democracy should not be the norm, and the international community will no doubt resolutely condemn Sunday’s events. Similarly, the state security apparatus will kick into action to punish the instigators of the attacks. But the question remains – will President Lula be able to bring back stability to such a divided nation, or do Sunday's events represent a step too far in the wrong direction for the country to recover from?


bottom of page