EU, UK leaders condemn Bolsonaro-backers’ assault on Brazil’s capital

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European leaders expressed support for democracy and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, after supporters of his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in Brasília on Sunday.

Describing the events in the Brazilian capital as an “assault on democracy,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday: “This is a major concern to all of us, the defenders of democracy. My full support to President @LulaOficial, who was elected freely and fairly.”

The protesters who overran the congress, presidential palace and the supreme court buildings reject the results of the October election that saw Lula narrowly beat Bolsonaro for the Brazilian presidency. Many have been camping out near military barracks in the hope of enlisting the army in a coup. Bolsonaro himself is currently in Florida, where he flew soon after losing to Lula.

By Monday morning, police had managed to regain control over the government buildings, with authorities saying at least 400 people had been arrested. Reuters reported that Brazilian Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes had ordered Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to block accounts of those spreading anti-democratic propaganda, and ruled that the protestors’ camps outside military bases should be removed within 24 hours and roads and buildings should be unblocked.

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“My absolute condemnation of the assault on the democratic institutions of Brazil. Full support for President @LulaOficial Da Silva, democratically elected by millions of Brazilians through fair and free elections,” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted Sunday night.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, issued a statement condemning “in the strongest terms the anti-democratic acts of violence” and expressing “full support to President Lula and to the Brazilian democratic system,” adding: “The place to resolve political differences is within Brazil’s democratic institutions and not through violence on the streets.” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said: “Democracy must always be respected.”

“The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated.” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Twitter. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in Portuguese to say Lula “can count on the unconditional support of France.” 

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned “any attempt to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and the democratic will of the people of Brazil.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said “the images of the raid on institutional offices are unacceptable and incompatible with any form of democratic dissent.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has been embroiled in a long-running rule-of-law row with Brussels, tweeted: “Democracy is not perfect. Sometimes only 50%+1 voters are satisfied. But nothing better has been invented to ensure the well-being of people. Democratic institutions (elections) are sacred. President @LulaOficial won and has the support of the democratic world, including Poland!”

Lula himself, who was not on site in the Brazilian capital during the attack, blasted the police on Sunday night, accusing them of having “just let the protesters in” to the presidential grounds and blaming Bolsonaro for the events. Speaking from São Paolo, Lula accused Bolsonaro of “encouraging this via social media from Miami … Everybody knows there are various speeches of the ex-president encouraging this.”

Bolsonaro rejected the idea that he was behind the assault and condemned the violence in a Twitter thread.

The storming of government buildings in Brasilia drew immediate parallels to the January 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol, and President Joe Biden’s administration condemned the “assault on democracy.”

This article was updated.