What happened in Washington one year ago, has just happened again in Brazil: thousands of Bolsonaro supporters have stormed the Congress buildings and the Supreme Court. And this happens just days after Lula’s presidential inauguration, marked by appeals for a national unity.
On the day of Lula’s inauguration, they were camping in the street of Brasilia, watching angrily how hundreds of thousands of Brazilian workers and peasants celebrate the return of their president. On 8 January, they marched towards Congress and Supreme Court buildings. Neither the temporary barricades, nor the gas spread by the parliamentary guards could stop them.
Bolsonaro supporters ran onto the roof of the building, smashed windows and also broke into the Supreme Court building. In other photos and videos posted on social media, they can be seen inside the presidential administration’s headquarters, the Palácio do Planalto, where they run through the corridors and vandalise the interiors.
The extreme right-winger Jair Bolsonaro narrowly lost the presidential election in October. On 1 January, Lula da Silva, the famous leader of the Workers’ Party and president who led millions of Brazilians out of poverty, was sworn in as head of state. Bolsonaro himself left Brazil and flew off to Florida.
Supporters of the far right could not accept the defeat of their leader. Violent street protests by Bolsonaro’s voters continued for several weeks after the vote results were announced.
In December, shortly before Christmas, Brazilian police detained a right-wing extremist who allegedly confessed to planning a bomb attack at Brasilia airport. As he said, he hoped create chaos in the country, prompting the military to stage a coup.
On 13 December, in another attempt to sow chaos and grab the power, extreme right-wingers set fire to cars and buses in the streets of Brasilia and then tried to attack the police headquarters. Lula’s inauguration was held under extraordinary security measures.
Brazilian left-wing politicians, in their first comments after the attack on parliament, speak and write of a terrorist attack. They recall the very basic thing: Lula won the election in a democratic manner. No matter how thin was the final difference between the candidates, it was the left candidate who got more votes. And he planned to take this small margin into consideration: he chose a Centrist politician for a running mate and he publicly expressed awareness of huge divisions in the society.
On inauguration day, Lula assured that he would want to maintain excellent relations with the parliament, which is dominated by the right.
Lula appointed as many as 16 representatives from various right-wing and centre parties to his government of 37 ministers. In comparison, his Workers’ Party is represented by no more than ten politicians in this cabinet.
– We are not a unanimous government. It is a cabinet of people who are equal, but who think differently, and who must commit themselves to the work of rebuilding the country, democracy and solidarity with the classes most affected by growing poverty, as well as to the effort to get the Brazilian economy growing again and, with the right tax policies, to make income redistribution possible, Lula said.
Announcements of egalitarian policies were thus intertwined with assurances that the government would not be purely left-wing, and that the pursuit of economic growth was as important to Lula as combating inequalities. Such gestures of good will towards the opposition are unthinkable in Latin America, wherever a right-wing politician wins elections. And they hardly help left-wing politicians to gain their opponents for any kind of ‘common work above the differences’, let alone ‘national unity’.
In Lula’s case, it seems, the story will not be much different.
Why? Because whatever Lula might do, and no matter how moderate he appears now compared to his early years as trade unionist, his political comeback is simply unacceptable for the extreme right. Those who sympathized with Bolsonaro’s ideas to destroy the Amazon forest and get grounds for agricultural production would never listen to Lula’s argumentation that this is simply a crime against the planet and against local populations.
In addition, Lula did not only speak. He acted.
Within the first days of his inauguration, the president cancelled the planned privatisation of eight major state-owned companies, including Petroleo Brasileiro. He ordered a thorough study of the impact of the privatisation of public services on their availability and quality. He also announced a more open migration policy and rejoining the UN Global Compact on Migration.
At the moment when I am writing these words, more forces are being brought to Brasilia to stop the extremists and to defend the democratic choice of the Brazilian people. Words of solidarity are coming to Lula from regional leaders, from center-left presidents of Chile and Colombia to the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. – Brazilian democracy will prevail over violence and extremism – he tweeted.
From Washington, there is silence so far.
After a few hours from the attempted coup, the far right plans to seize power seem to have failed. Lula, addressing the citizens on TV, announced that the attackers would be tried and punished severely for their unprecedented attack on democracy. 150 participants of the storms have been arrested by far.
At the point when it was clear that the Bolsonaristas cannot count on any mass support, the US Secretary of State spoke against the coup, too.