Rampage in Brasilia: the security flaws in question

In the aftermath of the ransacking of the Presidential Palace, Congress and the Supreme Court on Sunday by hundreds of Bolsonarists, many questions arose about the unpreparedness, incompetence and even complicity of the security forces.

How did the attackers gain so easy access to places of power? Who funded this attack on Brazilian democracy?

Why didn’t the security forces dismantle earlier the camps of supporters of the far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro installed for two months in front of barracks across the country, calling for military intervention to prevent left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to come to power?

“Tragedy more than announced in Brasilia”, headlined the editorialist Eliomar de Lima in a column for the daily O Povo, based in Fortaleza (northeast).

The warning signs were not lacking. Saturday evening, a hundred buses bringing some 4,000 Bolsonarists arrived in the capital and joined a camp opposite the headquarters of the Army.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino then authorized the deployment of agents from the National Force, a special police force sometimes sent to the various states in the event of a threat to law and order.

This did not prevent the rioters from covering the eight kilometers between their camp and the place of the Three Powers without being blocked by the police, where the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Court and the Congress meet.

– “Bad will or bad faith” –

“We can see from the images that (the Bolsonarists) were guided (by the police) to the Place des Trois Powers,” Lula lamented at a press conference.

“The forces of order in the Federal District (Brasilia) have shown incompetence, ill will or bad faith,” he accused.

Minutes before the invasion, a security official in Brasilia sent a reassuring – and surreal given what happened after – audio message to Federal District Governor Ibaneis Rocha.

From left to d. : Ibaneis Rocha (Governor of Brasilia), Flavio Dino (Brazilian Minister of Justice) and Jose Mucio (Minister of Defense), during a press conference in Brasilia, December 27, 2022 (AGENCIA BRASIL/AFP/Archives – Renato ALVES)

“The demonstrators are escorted by the police (…) and the climate is calm, it is a completely peaceful demonstration”, he says in this recording published by the Metropoles site.

In its editorial published on Monday, the Estado de S. Paulo daily highlighted “the startling ease with which the vandals who did not accept the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro invaded the places of power in Brasilia, during the worst attack on the Brazilian democracy since the end of the military dictatorship (1964-1985)”.

– “All expenses paid” –

Long before the arrival of the coaches, numerous publications on social networks showed that the attack had been prepared in great detail for several days.

“It’s all expenses paid. Water, breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you will camp at the Planalto (the Presidential Palace)”, could we read for example in a Bolsonarist group of Telegram messaging .

This seriously calls into question the effectiveness of the intelligence services.

The attitude of some police officers has also been singled out, with videos showing officers filming the assault with their phones rather than intervening.

“The security forces were there, but they did not act to prevent this invasion. If it was another type of protester, the reaction of the police would not have been so peaceful”, lamented Pedro Sabino Rapatoni, administrative assistant in Brasilia.

TV Globo columnist Miriam Leitao denounced on Monday the “bolsonarization of the police forces in Brasilia”.

Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro arrested by the police, in Brasilia, on January 9, 2023, after the invasion of places of power in the capital of Brazil (AFP - MAURO PIMENTEL)
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro arrested by the police, in Brasilia, on January 9, 2023, after the invasion of places of power in the capital of Brazil (AFP – MAURO PIMENTEL)

Starting with their leader, the security secretary of the Federal District Anderson Torres, former justice minister of Jair Bolsonaro, who was in the United States on Sunday as the former president.

“During the entire period he was minister, he showed that beyond his functions, he was above all a fervent Bolsonarist militant,” explained Ms. Leitao.

Anderson Torres was finally fired on Sunday night, and his appointee, Governor Ibaneis Rocha, was suspended from office for 90 days by a Supreme Court justice.

But other heads should roll soon.

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