On Jan. 6, 2021, a group of rioters invaded the United States Capital. These rioters were supporters of former President Donald Trump who consistently claimed that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. On Jan. 8, 2023 in the city of Brasilia, The home of the Brazilian Capital, was invaded by a mob of Brazilians who were supporters of the former President Jair Bolsanaro, who like Trump, made false claims that the 2022 Brazilian Presidential election was rigged. How could this type of attempted coup d’etat happen in Brazil and what are the lessons human beings need to learn from this and other incidents from the past and the future? 

Former President Jair Bolsonaro, named “Trump of the Tropics,” has championed right wing populism, gutted environmental regulations, fought the elite status quo and downplayed coronavirus in Brazil which resulted in over 695,000 deaths. His challenge was Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who governed the country as president from 2003-2011. Lula Da Silva, who is mononymously known as simply Lula, promised to tackle climate change and reverse the policies of Bolsonaro.  Lula ultimately won the 2022 election on Oct. 30 with 50.90% of the vote. Bolsonaro and his supporters took no time raging against the legitimacy of the election.

On Jan. 1, Silva was sworn in for his third term as president and Bolsonaro left the country for Florida, but that did not dissuade his supporters from their plan to invade. The day of the incident 100 buses arrived at the capital and thousands of Bolsonaro supporters descended upon the Three Powers Plaza in Brasilia, the city which houses the Congress, the Supreme Court, and Presidential Office. After breaking windows, destroying property, and causing fires inside all three institutions, the day ended with law enforcement arresting over 1,500 according to the minister of justice

The media has immediately picked up on the similarities between this riot and the riot in the U.S. capital, even finding Brazil’s own Q’Anon shaman lookalike in the process. After January 6th Donald Trump was impeached for his actions, there are similar actions that can be taken to extradite Jair Bolsonaro and charge him for his involvement in events which led to insurrection.  

So what to do next? What to do with Bolsonaro? And what to do with the thousands of protesters who rioted the Brazilian capital? And, like America’s own January 6th, how do we avoid this from ever happening again? 

First, Bolsonaro should be extradited from Florida back to Brazil to face charges for his actions. He made false claims about the election and tried to use the military to help him from being ousted by the voters. He acted irresponsibly towards the people who tried to preserve Brazilian democracy that standard must apply. Even before the election, Bolsonaro was already making plans to cause chaos with the 2022 elections in the event of his defeat. The Huffpost explained back in June that Bolsonaro had plans to make the election seem rigged.

 

Second, every person who invaded the capital unlawfully and with violence should be charged and convicted. Like Bolsanaro, the actions of trying to stop the next president from governing because they did not like the results of the election is insufficient for any legal defense. According to Bloomberg, Bolsonaro supporters were expressing their anger on social media.

 

“Those who by criminal means won’t accept, by criminal means have taken part in anti-democratic acts will be treated like criminals,” said Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who ordered suspensions of prominent online accounts in Brazil perpetuating widespread election fraud claims. 

While there is an intuitive feeling to suppress these people’s political views, and believe those kinds of actions will solve the problem and cure the ills of society, it wont. Writing off people and calling them pure evil with minimal context will not make Brazil’s society better, nor will it make America’s society better. 

Bolsonaro’s willingness to be brash and disrespectful toward his opponents further advances aforementioned Trump comparison. Like Trump, Bolsonaro won the presidency on the promise of changing the country and giving voice to those who seemed forgotten, politically incorrect as they were. Bolsonaro ran on changing the status quo and wanting to protect Brazilian culture and family values.

Now this does not excuse any party’s behavior at all, it doesn’t absolve Bolsonaro’s agency, nor the protestors in this invasion, we must understand people’s real anxieties about their future. America should not write off 74 million people who voted for Trump nor Brazil should write off the 58 million people who voted for Bolsonaro. Like the rioters of January 6th, the rioters of January 8th should not just be labeled as pure evil because of one act. A responsible government is supposed to respond and address the concerns that their citizens, real people, are having, especially now that Brazil experienced COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, lost their homes, lost their jobs and lost their livelihoods. It is conceivable for people who voted for Bolsonaro to have non racist views on why they voted for him.

Right wing extremism will not just go away. In order to fight that extremism we must address the conservative political anxieties that make the idea of insurrection and mutiny all so attractive.

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