Brazil remains divided as it marks the anniversary of the January 8 riots

Brazil remains divided as it marks the anniversary of the January 8 riots

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will convene Brazil's biggest political figures on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the far-right riots that rocked the capital, but key absences will undermine the message of unity. Became.

On January 8, 2023, the veteran leftist became president when tens of thousands of supporters of his defeated election rival, far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, stormed the presidential palace, Congress, and the Supreme Court, destroying the courtroom. It was only a week since he returned. They invaded the premises and demanded that the military expel Lula.

The Brasilia riot drew immediate comparisons to the breach of the Washington Capitol two years ago by Donald Trump supporters, and was the latest in a wave of violence that tore Brazil apart following Lula's narrow victory over Bolsonaro in October of the previous year. It exposed a deep division.

On the surface, these divisions are less obvious today. The far right is still reeling from electoral authorities' decision last June to ban Bolsonaro from running for president for eight years, citing backlash against the riots and attacks on his credibility. election system.

But analysts say deep rifts remain.

Gerardo Monteiro, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University, said Brazil's constitution only dates back to the end of the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 and the uprising “strengthened belief in democracy.”

“But people are still polarized,” he told AFP.

Of the 2,170 people arrested in the riots, 30 have so far been sentenced to prison terms of up to 17 years on charges including armed criminal conspiracy, violent insurrection against the rule of law, and attempted coup.

Bolsonaro, who was in the United States at the time, is being investigated on suspicion of inciting a riot.

He denies responsibility.

“Unyielding democracy”

Mr. Lula, 78, will mark the anniversary with a ceremony at the Capitol building with attendees including leaders of both chambers, governors, military commanders, foreign ambassadors and other heads of state.

The event, dubbed “Unyielding to Democracy,” featured iconic Brazilian artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx's work on the tapestry that was ripped off and torn from the walls of the Senate during the riot. We are planning to show off the restoration.

A replica of the Constitution taken from the Supreme Court will also be returned symbolically.

Lula, who served two terms as president in the 2000s, said January 8 “left deep scars” but that “democracy won.”

Andre Cesar, a political scientist at consulting firm Hold, said the prime minister was trying to use the opportunity to send a message of unity.

However, there will also be notable absences from the right, including former Bolsonaro minister and Sao Paulo governor Tarcisio Freitas, who is considered a likely presidential candidate.

Opposition forces “do not want to strengthen Lula's image as a great builder of national unity,” Cesar said.

“Patriot's Day”

Meanwhile, hardline Bolsonaro supporters have staunchly supported the January 8 protesters.

Silas Malafaia, an influential evangelical pastor and close ally of Mr Bolsonaro, told AFP that the charges against them were “pure political persecution”.

“Have you ever seen a coup without weapons? Have you ever seen a terrorist attack without bombs?”

In the run-up to the anniversary, calls to celebrate January 8 as “Patriot's Day” and to take to the streets to “paralyze” the country have been circulating on social media.

However, authorities say they do not expect large-scale protests.

Analysts say January 8 is the latest litmus test in Brazil's culture war, which has divided the South American giant on issues including gun control, LGBTQ+ rights and abortion.

“It goes beyond politics and becomes a question of identity,” Cesar says.

Brasilia, the ultra-modernist capital founded in 1960, now shows few traces of last year's turmoil. Three of his broken-in vitreous concrete buildings, designed by legendary modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, have been restored.

Urban planner Jorge Francisconi said that although there were “weak barriers”, authorities were refraining from building walls and upholding the capital's founding ideals of a “transparent city”.


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