One year ago, the headlines coming out of Brazil sounded a disturbing echo of one of the worst days in recent U.S. history. On Jan. 8, 2023, just days after the U.S. marked the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump, Brazilians experienced what looked like their own version of the same event: an effort to overthrow their duly elected president.
Backers of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who had been dubbed the Trump of the tropics, stormed the seat of federal power in the capital, Brasilia. During four hours that shocked the country, thousands of right-wing Bolsonaristas—as Bolsonaro’s supporters are called—rampaged through the buildings housing the three branches of government. They trashed the presidential palace, the Supreme Court and Congress, destroying national treasures and shouting their demand that Bolsonaro’s successor, the newly inaugurated President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, be removed from office.
Brazil was undoubtedly following in the ugly footsteps of the Capitol Insurrection in Washington. But then something surprising happened. The two countries, whose political dramas had momentarily converged, moved in completely different directions.