Storming of parliament in Brazil: danger averted?

After the storming of the Brazilian parliament, Supreme Court and presidential palace by supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, security forces have brought the situation under control and around 1,500 suspected rioters have been arrested. President Lula da Silva announced that those responsible would be punished with the full force of the law. Europe's press remains alarmed.

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Público (PT) /

Bolsonaro to blame

Público underlines the role played by the ex-president:

“Jair Bolsonaro has spent four years promoting hatred and lies as a state policy, leaving behind a country where thousands of people think fake news is reality, reality is an opinion, opinion is a high wall behind which the enemy lives. ... Like Donald Trump in the US, Bolsonaro has incited a section of the Brazilian population with inflammatory words, releasing populist sparks into the dry pasture of credulity, after which he went on holiday to the US so as to have an alibi when the street explodes. And that is what has happened now.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Redistribution is the key

The greatest challenge is to overcome inequality, historians Olivier Compagnon and Anaïs Fléchet write in Le Monde:

“It cannot be stressed often enough how unequal Brazilian society is, and how the extreme diversity of socio-economic conditions automatically challenges the idea of a common destiny governed by the rules of democracy. ... Lula's greatest challenge is to restore the idea of a more equitable distribution of wealth in the service of a renewed democratic pact. However, it is not certain that the current economic conditions will give him the opportunity to do so.”

Público (ES) /

Just like the old fascists of the Estado Novo

Today's insurgents are old acquaintances, Público notes:

“Since the coup d'état of Getúlio Vargas and the establishment of the so-called Estado Novo in 1937, Brazil has suffered repeated coups d'état. This great South American country has been a laboratory for the most macabre experiments in anti-communist tyranny. ... White men made up the bulk of the horde that seized the seats of the three branches of state in Brasília on Sunday in an attempted coup against Lula da Silva. There were hardly any women or black people among them, even though half of Brazil's population is non-white. It was the same ones as always: white men who don't want to lose their power. Their slogan is 'Fatherland, Family, God and Freedom', just like that of the old fascists. This is the history of Brazil and Latin America.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Successfully blocked

The taz can also see a positive side to the events:

“The invaders didn't succeed. Brazil's democracy proved its resilience. Although many law enforcement officers let the Bolsonaro mob pass, the coup failed. The general opinion in the country is that these attacks should be condemned. Now the attackers must answer for their actions in a court of law. If a repetition of the violence is to be prevented, it must be made clear that there is no room in Brazilian society for conspiracy theories and coup plotters.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Our democracies are also vulnerable

The storming of Congress in Brazil must come as a wake-up call, De Morgen warns:

“Democracy is never a given, it is an activity. So our governments, representatives and judiciary should already conduct a stress test: could such a mutiny happen here as well? If the answer is 'no', it could prove that our institutions are strong enough and run by people who have the citizens' best interests at heart, who in turn trust the three branches of state power. On the other hand, polls show that there is party-based polarisation and a decline in people's trust in the government here, too. So the answer could also be 'yes'.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

We must not get used to this

Aftonbladet calls for maximum vigilance:

“Is this the new normal? The coup attempt took place almost exactly two years after the attempted coup d'état at the US Capitol, and just one month after the largest anti-terrorism operation to date in Germany, which was also aimed at stopping a far-right coup attempt. And all over the world there are reports of the decline of democracy. You'd have to be blinkered not to see a pattern here. ... How [the situation in Brazil] will develop is unclear. What is clear, however, is that something like this will happen again - the only question is when, where and in what way. But whether it becomes the norm is for us to decide.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Even worse than in Washington

The attack did not come as a surprise for Helsingin Sanomat:

“It would have been nice to be more surprised by the chaos on Sunday, but it went according to script. Bolsonaro had been sowing mistrust in the minds of his supporters long before the election. ... In terms of scale, what Bolsonaro's supporters did is far more serious than the invasion of the Congress building by Trump supporters in January 2021. What took place in Brasília on Sunday would be comparable if Trump supporters had attacked and gained access not only to Congress but also to the White House and the US Supreme Court. Clearly, the scale of the damage to property in Brazil is also far larger.”

BBC (GB) /

Stoked by Trump supporters

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was among those who fuelled the protests, the BBC concludes:

“Across several episodes of his podcast and in social media posts, he and his guests stoked up allegations of a 'stolen election' and shadowy forces. He promoted the hashtag BrazilianSpring, and continued to encourage opposition even after Mr Bolsonaro himself appeared to accept the results. Mr Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was just one of several key allies of Donald Trump who followed the same strategy used to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 US presidential election. And like what happened in Washington on 6 January 2021, those false reports and unproven rumours helped fuel a mob that smashed windows and stormed government buildings in an attempt to further their cause.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Populist sedition is being exported

A trend is emerging here that Europe should also be prepared for, warns La Stampa:

“Seditious populism is spreading, it is a kind of Fourth International. It feeds on popular discontent and draws inspiration from charismatic leaders who flirt with autocracy - Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro are classic examples. ... It can easily be exported and instrumentalised. ... In Europe and the West, attacks on democracy and institutions aimed at overturning election results have become a risk to be reckoned with.”

The Economist (GB) /

Passive support from other state actors

The Economist finds the dubious role of the police worrying:

“If the riots in Washington revealed lapses in police intelligence and co-ordination, their Brazilian counterpart laid evidence to something more sinister. While there is no evidence that the police were complicit in the insurrection, they were, at the very least, passive. Shortly after the invasion of congress began in Brasília, a group of officers were caught on film chatting with protesters, taking selfies and filming the chaos rather than acting to stop it. Requests for backup from the head of the Senate police to the governor of the federal district of Brasília, who is an ally of Mr Bolsonaro, were ignored until late in the afternoon.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Democracy needs fair losers

Corriere della Sera warns against demonisation:

“This criminal behaviour aims to destroy a foundation of democracy, namely recognition of the legitimacy of the opponent. Liberal democracy works as long as the defeated are willing to step down because they know that, thanks to free electoral competition, they could win again next time. If, on the other hand, the opposing party is seen as the absolute evil, then the end justifies the means and even violence becomes acceptable. It is not only a vice of the right to demonise the opponent - but in this historical phase from Trump to Bolsonaro it is their political parties that condone the most blatant attacks on institutions.”