The administration of newly sworn-in Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva (Lula) has begun investigations into former President Jair Bolsonaro, members of his family, and other powerful individuals and organizations suspected of funding and organizing the capital riots earlier this year, reports PBS. On January 8, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters invaded and vandalized important federal buildings in the nation’s capital, Brasilia, in hopes of overturning the 2022 election, which Bolsonaro lost.
Two days later, Bolsonaro posted a now-deleted video to Facebook from Florida in which he explicitly denied the results of the 2022 election, and accused his successor of being chosen by the Supreme Court. Federal prosecutors have cited the video as grounds to investigate the former president’s conduct and possible incitement of the anti-democratic riots, PBS furthers. The government has also issued an arrest warrant for Bolsonaro’s former justice minister, Anderson Torres, who similarly fled the country for the United States shortly before the unrest. No definite connection has been made between Bolsonaro and the rioters yet, but investigations are ongoing.
Other individuals under investigation for their roles in the events of January 8 include Atilio Rovaris, the wealthy heir to a soybean farming empire built on deforestation and exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon Rainforest, according to the Associated Press. Also under investigation is Leonardo Rodrigo de Jesus, a far-right personality in Brazil and the nephew of former President Bolsonaro. de Jesus, who recorded himself leading rioters on January 8, had his home searched on January 27 in a raid by the Federal Police along with those of 26 other suspected “coup plotters and terrorists,” as Justice Minister Flavio Dino described them on Twitter.
Police say that the goal of the raids are to identify those who “participated in, funded or fostered” the riots, reports Al Jazeera. The raids are part of a wider campaign to flush out Bolsonaro loyalists from positions of power, such as Brasilia’s governor Ibaneis Rocha, who was placed on a 90-day suspension by the Supreme Court to ensure that he would not interfere with the prosecutions of officials accused of abetting the riots, says Time.
The investigations into Bolsonaro and his allies are the most recent additions to a list of troubles faced by the ex-president. In addition to the possibility of criminal charges, he will likely face sanctions for electoral violations, which could result in heavy fines and bans from running for political office again, writes The Washington Post. Evidence that could be used against him in 16 pending electoral cases includes the aforementioned Facebook video and a document found at Anderson Torres’ home which outlines a process of dubious legality by which Bolsonaro could have attempted to stay in power. Investigators have yet to find a ‘smoking gun’ connecting him to a coup attempt, however.
The Lula Administration’s handling of those behind the attack may not accurately represent the sentiments of his constituents, however. Despite 76 percent of Brazilians polled condemning the attack, with only 18 percent supporting it, the public remains heavily divided on Lula’s mandate to rule. In the same poll cited by Time, 40 percent of respondents believed that Lula did not win more votes than Bolsonaro and 37 percent favored military intervention. Bolsonaristas, as the former president’s supporters are called, still comprise a sizable chunk of the nation’s voting population. The Washington Post reports that Brazil is highly polarized, as demonstrated by Lula’s narrow victory, and that many fear the direction the country is going. Although Jair Bolsonaro has left office, many of his allies hold power in Congress and local governments. As Lula may soon learn, individuals can be investigated and charged, but deep political and cultural divisions are far more difficult to eradicate.
Image courtesy of The Advocate