The Exile and the Mob

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The former president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, might finally be planning to return to his native country after decamping for Florida in late December, shortly before his successor, the now incumbent Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, took the oath of office.

Bolsonaro’s time in the Sunshine State was not stress-free. As the Associated Press reported, he claimed he was also undergoing treatment for problems associated with injuries sustained when he was stabbed nearly five years ago. But the conservative, populist politician also happened to be out of the country when thousands of his supporters stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on Jan. 8, an incident he described as a “sad episode.”

Analysts have warned for months that his supporters in Brazil were planning a riot in the capital Brasília that resembled the unrest at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, 2021, wrote Wired magazine. Others like the Council on Foreign Relations have drawn similar parallels, but wrote that occurring after Lula’s inauguration, it was unclear what the purpose of the protests was.

The cause of the unrest stems from anger and also conspiracy theories related to Lula’s victory over Bolsonaro that have emerged since last year’s October presidential election, the New York Times added. Many of the rioters claim left-wing agents within their ranks caused the destruction, for example, not the right-wing folks who marched on the capital.

Meanwhile, they say they are patriots who remain true to their cause, the Washington Post wrote.

“The media treats them as terrorists,” said the Rev. Geraldo Gama, a Catholic priest, in an interview with the newspaper. “They’re not. They’re heroes.”

Regardless, it seems as if Brazil’s democracy has passed this stress test, wrote the Wall Street Journal. Tens of thousands of Brazilians recently took to the streets to celebrate and show their support for a peaceful democratic transition of power, the BBC reported. But now the fallout is also occurring as police process around 1,500 protesters who were detained during the earlier riots as well as those who might have organized or financed them, CNN explained.

Last week, authorities requested the freezing of $1.3 million in assets belonging to 52 people and seven companies alleged to have helped fund the buses that brought protesters to the capital.

Meanwhile, a judge recently ordered the arrest of Anderson Torres, the police chief of Brasília, the capital, for allegedly hampering law enforcement’s response to the demonstration in order to foment a coup against Lula’s democratically elected government, according to Reuters. Torres happens to be Bolsonaro’s former justice minister. Lula bypassed Torres and deployed federal forces to put down the riots, a move his allies said demonstrated his “decisive” leadership, the Guardian noted.

Even so, authorities are examining the role of police and military in hindering the arrest of protesters. Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating Bolsonaro’s role in the riots. They are also seeking to audit and seize Bolsonaro’s assets as they investigate whether or not he had a hand in the events, the Financial Times wrote.

The former president presumably would need to appear in court to keep his belongings, a risky move considering that he also might lose everything if he submits to the law.

Regardless, the protests were over quickly, in less than a day. The aftermath, however, promises to last much longer.

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