Brazil’s ‘Capital Riot’ Highlights the Challenges Lula Faces

Brazil’s ‘Capital Riot’ Highlights the Challenges Lula Faces
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walks in the Presidential Palace after it was stormed by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 8, 2023 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Yesterday’s attempted insurrection in Brazil, in which frustrated supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro invaded the Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace in Brasilia, was a final pathetic sign of where Bolsonaro’s political situation now stands. Bolsonaro had already fled the country in the final hours of his disgraced presidency, going out with a whimper, not the bang he had promised. Rather than attend the inauguration and hand the presidential sash to his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, according to custom, Bolsonaro flew to Florida, where he will apparently hang out at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump, the former U.S. president to whom he has so often been compared. 

Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters who had hoped for a last-minute push to overturn the election results were disappointed. Bolsonaro and his sons had once promised that they could organize an event similar to the assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that would allow him to remain in office. Instead, the former president and his family sulked off the political stage after no co-conspirators joined them for the plot and the military refused to help them. In the end, Bolsonaro was no more successful in preventing the transfer of power than he was in managing Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic response or the rest of his presidency over the past four years.

With no plan or hope for success, Bolsonaro’s supporters may have experienced a form of catharsis by invading and vandalizing government buildings yesterday. But all they accomplished was to make Brazil’s political establishment even angrier at the former president. It will further isolate Bolsonaro and reduce his influence in ways that didn’t happen to Trump, who remains the leader of the Republican Party and a serious contender for the 2024 U.S. presidential election. In contrast, yesterday’s riots were a final indignity heaped upon Bolsonaro’s presidency, even if Bolsonaro himself condemned them.

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