Riots against Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva threaten democracy 


Ana López del Punta '23

Pro-Bolsonaro rioters storm Brazil’s congressional building, Supreme Court, and presidential offices.

Following leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s return to office January 1 after thirteen years away from the presidency, supporters of former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro continued to question the integrity of the October 2022 election, claiming that it was a crime against democracy.  This speculation ultimately led to an insurrection against Mr. Lula da Silva and an attack on Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential offices in Brasília, Brazil, January 8.  Many believe that the event is reminiscent of the storming of the United States Capitol January 6, 2021, not only because the dates closely coincide but also because the actions of Mr. Bolsonaro mimic those of former American President Donald Trump, according to The New York Times

Supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro struggle with the police as they attempt to enter Congress.  Courtesy of Mr. Adriano Machado for The New York Times

A self-made man, Mr. Lula da Silva first became president of Brazil in 2002 because many found that his struggles growing up lower class mirrored their own stories.  Following Brazil’s constitution, Mr. Lula da Silva left office after two terms in 2010 with a public rating of 90 percent.  Eight years later, however, he went to prison due to corruption charges but served only over one year because the judge repealed his 12-year conviction, according to

As the 38th president, Mr. Bolsonaro came into office in 2019 and instituted far right-wing, conservative policies, sharing ideals with Mr. Trump, according to  The Brazilian president turned into an unpopular figure because of the continued devastation of the Amazon rainforest and the deaths of 700,000 people due to COVID-19, according to The New York Times.  

Mr. Lula da Silva returned to power after winning the 2022 presidential election by 50.9 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Although experts attest that Brazil’s election system is secure, Mr. Bolsonaro quickly claimed that the election was fraudulent.  Journalists remark that Mr. Bolsonaro’s calls for his supporters to preserve democracy are similar to Mr. Trump’s tweets and speeches that allegedly incited the storming of the American Capitol, according to The New York Times

Mr. Bolsonaro traveled to Florida before Mr. Lula da Silva assumed the presidency January 1.  An anonymous friend of Mr. Bolsonaro remarked that the latter fled Brazil because of the government’s investigations regarding corruption during his incumbency.  As he left the country, Mr. Bolsonaro began to urge his supporters to protest peacefully, but it was too late, according to The New York Times

Similar to American President Joseph R. Biden, Mr. Lula da Silva expressed at his inauguration that uniting the people was one of his major objectives.  However, rioters, dressed in yellow and green, entered the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential offices a week later.  Protesters burned and looted the property and vandalized artwork, aiming to reinstate Mr. Bolsonaro with the help of the armed forces, according to The New York Times

The Brazilian police arrest those involved in the attack.  Courtesy of Gustavo Moreno for The Wall Street Journal

The police detained 1,200 people that night and arrested 400 January 11.  However, they later released the elderly and parents with young children, who amounted to 600 people, according to theguardian.comThe police also arrested the Justice Minister under Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Anderson Torres, who is now the security chief of Brasília, under charges of involvement in the riots January 14, according to

To restore order, Mr. Lula da Silva announced an emergency decree.  Until the end of January, the federal government will manage the security of Brasília.  Mr. Lula da Silva’s administration is also currently conducting an investigation and plans to have the rioters face repercussions, according to The New York Times.

“There is no precedent for what these people have done, and for that, these people must be punished,” Mr. Lula da Silva said, according to The New York Times

Mr. Lula da Silva’s government officials and many other Brazilians worry that the storming at Brasília was not an isolated event.  Due to the support for Mr. Bolsonaro among members of the military, Brazilians speculate that there could be another coup, according to

“We need to be really vigilant,” Mr. Celso Amorim, Brazil’s Foreign Minister during Mr. Lula da Silva’s previous presidency, said, according to  “We can’t just think it was something that happened and is over and that’s it.”

Featured Image by Ana López del Punta ’23