The Political Riot in Brasilia

January 8, 2023 riot in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil resembled January 6, 2020 in some ways, but very different in others. It was widely anticipated that there would be massive protest turning into violence on inauguration day, January 1, 2023. This did not happen. There was a lot of speculation that the military would step in prior to January 8 and Lula da Silva would not be inaugurated. In fact, the more radical supporters of Bolsonaro hoped he would void the election by calling in the military. Again, this was completely unfounded, just a lot of Facebook posting nonsense.

The idea of calling in the military to “fix” an election result, is a very good way to end a democracy. Every dictator depends on the military to control the population. Just go ask Vladimir Putin.

The general election was held on October 2, 2022. The runoff election between Bolsonaro and Lula was held on October 30, 2022, and Lula was declared the winner on October 31.For a summary of the Brazilian first general election and runoff presidential election (Oct 30, 2022) see the link below:

Link: 2022 Brazilian General Election

Bolsonaro is not Trump. This is meant as a compliment. I was relieved when Bolsonaro made a brief statement on November 1, saying that he authorized his chief of staff to begin the transition process. In essence, he was telling millions of supporters that the election was over. There is no legal requirement to concede. All he has to do is step aside, and he did this.

He said everything he does is within the mandates of the constitution. Thank God for this. Everything seem quick and final. Brazil has no write in or mail in voting. It is 100% electronic and considered by many, to be reliable. Every Brazilian has a national identity number and getting a job is difficult without it. There was no “Stop the Steal” craziness or 61 attempts to challenge the results in court. But, he refused to acknowledge that Lula had won. I thought from November 1 to January 1 (inauguration day) things would cool off.

Per Wikipedia: “On 22 November, he and his party formally contested the election result, after an audit revealed that electronic voting machines made before 2020, which comprised 59% of machines used in the 2022 election, lacked identification numbers in their internal logs. They requested that the Superior Electoral Court invalidate the votes recorded by the affected machines, which would result in Bolsonaro being elected with 51% of the remaining valid votes. However, experts claimed that the software error did not affect the election results and pointed out that the identification numbers did appear in the physical vote records printed by the machines.[313] On the next day the court rejected the request and fined the party R$22.9 million (US$4.3 million) for what it considered bad faith litigation.[314]”

Unlike the US, there is only one ultimate authority on election integrity, and that is the Superior Electoral Court headed by Alexandre de Moraes. See link below for his background

Link: Alexandre de Moraes

The Brazilian system of justice may be flawed, but at least candidates need only to petition one court with their complaints. Justice Alexandre de Moraes was astute enough to ask if the results from 59% of voting machines were to be invalidated, did this apply to the first election and the runoff? The problem for Bolsonaro’s party was that many of their candidates for Governor, Senator and Congress won in the first election, so of course they did not want to throw out these favorable results. It was immediately obvious to everyone involved that the court filing was just a publicity stunt.

False information about the voting machines spread quickly both in Brazil and the US. I received several postings on Facebook saying that in truth, Bolsonaro had won 73% of the vote. It seems the Brazilian community in Miami were very quick to hit the share icon.

See link from National Public Radio (US): Why false claims about Brazil’s election are spreading in far-right U.S. circles

It is definitely true that Steve Bannon and others in the US were trying to package and sell the “Stop the Steal” campaign stuff to far right groups in Brazil after Bolsonaro lost. But, for the most part, it isn’t packageable, at least not yet. It really takes powerhouses like Sean Hannity and Carlson Tucker on Fox News to spread misinformation to fuel the anger and frustration that comes from losing an election.

There are other enormous differences between Brazil and the US in the months after the election. While Bolsonaro’s party did file in court that the voting machines were flawed, this was quickly ruled on and dismissed. In the US, Trump was taking every possible opportunity to advance the “Stop the Steal” movement in court filings and fully endorsed the angry mob on January 6, 2020 that was on the brink of becoming violent. The Save America campaign was created to raise money to keep the “big lie” alive. There was no equivalent in Brazil. Thank God!

There was desecration of artwork in official rooms I am glad that no one died in the riot on January 8, 2022. No official, including Bolsonaro, referred to the rioters as patriots. No politician downplayed or minimized the impact of the January 8 riots, as Republican lawmakers had done in the US. It was recognized as an anti-democracy attack.

Wikipedia: Artworks damaged, destroyed or stolen in the 2023 Brasilia attacks

I am also glad to hear over 1,000 rioters (some reports are 1,500) were arrested. They seemed to be filming themselves, for posting to social media. I’m certain many cellphones will be confiscated as evidence. Note to rioters, don’t bring expensive iphones to riots.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes suspended Governor of Brasilia, Ibaneis Rocha from his job as governor for at least 90 days, saying that the upheaval “could only occur with the consent, and even effective participation, of the security and intelligence authorities.” The supporters of Bolsonaro had set up tent cities in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. The court ordered them dismantled.

Lula da Silva has got a huge challenge now, convincing Brazilians he truly wants to unite the country. The voting system of Brazil works. Many will go on believing that the election was stolen and Lula now will turn Brazil into an autocratic communist country like Cuba. The democratic structure of Brazil is too strong for this to happen.

Bolsonaro is too proud to say he lost in a free and fair election. But he shown to be much better than Trump, as he has conceded to others in private that he lost the election. He is now in the US, for medical treatment. I wish him well.

Stay tuned,

Dave