Brazil: Arrests Ordered for Top Officials After Capital Stormed

udiciary Police forces talk by the broken windows of the Supreme Court after supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro who invaded the building were subdued, in Brasilia on January 8, 2023.
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BBC- Brazil’s judicial authorities have ordered the arrest of top public officials after rioters stormed key government buildings in Brasília.

One official, the former commander of the military police, has been arrested, local media reported.

The officials also include Brasília’s former public security chief Anderson Torres and others “responsible for acts and omissions” leading to the riots, the attorney general’s office said.

Mr Torres denies any role in the riots.

Colonel Fábio Augusto, the police commander, was dismissed from his role after supporters of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court.

The rioting came a week after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, was sworn in.

The dramatic scenes saw thousands of protesters, some clad in yellow Brazil football shirts and waving flags, overrun police and ransack the heart of the Brazilian state.

Of the approximately 1,500 people arrested and brought to the police academy after the riot, officials say that nearly 600 have been taken to other facilities, where police officials have five days to formally charge them.

Former Justice Minister Anderson TorresImage source, Reuters
Former Justice Minister Anderson Torres

Earlier on Tuesday, the federal intervenor in public security accused Mr Torres of “a structured sabotage operation”.

Ricardo Cappelli, who has been appointed to run security in Brasília, said there was a “lack of command” from Mr Torres before government buildings were stormed.

Lula’s inauguration on 1 January was “an extremely successful security operation,” Mr Cappelli told CNN.

What changed before Sunday was that, on 2 January, “Anderson Torres took over as Secretary of Security, dismissed the entire command and travelled”, he said.

“If this isn’t sabotage, I don’t know what is,” Mr Cappelli added.

Mr Torres said that he deeply regretted the “absurd hypotheses” that he played any part in the riots.

He said the scenes, which occurred during his family holiday, were lamentable and said it was “the most bitter day” of his personal and professional life.

Lula has accused security forces of “neglecting” their duty in not halting the “terrorist acts” in Brasília.

Public prosecutors asked on Tuesday for a federal audit court to freeze Mr Bolsonaro’s assets in light of the riots.

The former president, who has condemned the riots, has not admitted defeat from October’s tight election that divided the nation, and flew to the US before the handover on 1 January.

On Monday, he was admitted to hospital in Florida with abdominal pain relating to a stabbing attack during his election campaign in 2018. Reports say he left the hospital on Tuesday.

Mr Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that he intended to return to Brazil, telling CNN that he would bring forward his departure from the US, which was originally scheduled for the end of January.

A day after the riots, heavily armed officers started dismantling a camp of Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters in Brasília – one of a number that have been set up outside army barracks around the country since the presidential election.

Mr Torres, who previously served as Mr Bolsonaro’s justice minister, was fired from his role as Secretary of Public Security on Sunday by Brasília governor Ibaneis Rocha.

Mr Rocha was himself later removed from his post for 90 days by the Supreme Court.

Lula has also taken aim at the security forces, accusing them of “incompetence, bad faith or malice” for failing to stop demonstrators accessing Congress.

“You will see in the images that they [police officers] are guiding people on the walk to Praca dos Tres Powers,” he said. “We are going to find out who the financiers of these vandals who went to Brasília are and they will all pay with the force of law.”

Video shared by the Brazilian outlet O Globo showed some officers laughing and taking photos together as demonstrators occupied the congressional campus in the background.

Timeline of attacks

Protesters had been gathering since the morning on the lawns in front of the parliament and up and down the kilometre of the Esplanada avenue, which is lined with government ministries and national monuments.

Despite the actions of the protesters, in the hours before the chaos, security had appeared tight, with the roads closed for about a block around the parliament area and armed police pairs guarding every entrance into the area.

The BBC had seen about 50 police officers around on Sunday morning local time and cars were turned away at entry points, while those entering on foot were frisked by police checking bags.

According to Katy Watson, the BBC’s South America correspondent, some protesters aren’t just angry that Mr Bolsonaro lost the election – they want President Lula to return to prison.

Mr Bolsonaro has gone very quiet since losing October’s elections, she said, adding that in not publicly conceding defeat, he’s allowed his most ardent supporters to remain angry over a democratic election that he legitimately lost.

The former president condemned the attack and denied responsibility for encouraging the rioters in a post on Twitter some six hours after violence broke out.

On Tuesday, his son, Brazilian Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, said people should not try to link his father to the riots, stating that he has been silently “licking his wounds” since losing the election.

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