RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 25 (Reuters) – Election-denying protesters camping outside Brazilian army bases have become “incubators of terrorism,” Brazil’s incoming justice minister said on Sunday, a day after police detonated an explosive device and arrested a suspect they accused of links to the Brasilia camp.
“Yesterday’s serious events in Brasilia prove that the so-called ‘patriotic’ camps have become incubators for terrorists,” tweeted Flavio Dino, the incoming minister. “There will be no amnesty for terrorists, their supporters and financiers.”
Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro have been camped outside army bases in Brazil for weeks, urging the military to overturn the victory of leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who takes office on Jan. 1.
Dino said arrangements for Lula’s inauguration would be “re-evaluated, with a view to tightening security.”
In a another tweet, Dino said he would propose the creation of “special groups to combat terrorism and irresponsible weaponry. The rule of law is not compatible with these political militias.”
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News of the bomb added a new dimension to post-election violence in Brazil, where tensions remain high after the most fraught election in a generation.
Bolsonaro, who has yet to concede defeat, has made baseless claims about the credibility of Brazil’s voting system, and many of his hardcore supporters believe him. The head of Brazil’s electoral court last month rejected a complaint from Bolsonaro’s allies challenging the presidential election.
The Brasilia camp, outside the army headquarters, has become one of the country’s most extreme. On Dec. 12, the day Lula’s victory was certified, some of the camp dwellers attacked the federal police HQ in Brasilia.
Robson Cândido, head of the Civil Police in Brasilia, said a 54-year-old man from the northeastern state of Para had been arrested and confessed to planting the device in a fuel truck near the Brasilia airport in order to sow chaos.
“He came to participate in the protests, outside the army headquarters, and he’s part of that movement that supports the current president,” Candido told reporters. “They’re in that mission, which according to them is ideological, but which has got out of control.”
Police also found assault-style rifles and other explosives at an apartment rented by the man in Brasilia. Cândido said the suspect was a registered gun-owner, known as a CAC, a group that has swelled sixfold to nearly 700,000 people since Bolsonaro was elected in 2018 and began loosening gun laws.
Cândido said the man, and those helping him, had tried to activate the explosive device, but it had not gone off. He said it was still unclear how many other people were involved.
“We’ve never had bombs here in Brazil,” he said.