On Anniversary Of Brazil Coup, President Vows "No Pardon" For Rioters

Lula Da Silva had been back in office for just one week when tens of thousands of Bolsonaro supporters broke into the halls of power.

On Anniversary Of Brazil Coup, President Vows 'No Pardon' For Rioters

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowed Monday there will be no pardon for ex-president Jair Bolsonaro's supporters who rioted in the capital a year ago, as the country marked the first anniversary of the attacks.
Speaking in the main entry hall of Congress in Brasilia -- one of three buildings far-right rioters invaded that day, along with the presidential palace and Supreme Court next door -- the veteran leftist said Brazil's democracy needed protecting.

"All those who financed, planned and committed this coup attempt must be made examples of and punished. There can be no pardon for those who attack democracy," Lula, 78, told a ceremony that included top figures from all three branches of government.

"Pardon would look like impunity, and impunity would look like a free pass for new terrorist attacks on our country. We saved democracy... But democracy must be built and protected every day."

Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, had been back in office for just one week when tens of thousands of Bolsonaro supporters riled up by the far-right former president's claims of election fraud broke into the halls of power, trashing the premises and calling for the military to oust Lula.

The riots were eerily reminiscent of the US Capitol invasion in Washington almost exactly two years earlier by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro's political role model.

The episode laid bare the violent divisions tearing at Brazil in the wake of Lula's narrow win over Bolsonaro the previous October.

'Democracy prevailed'

Bolsonaro, who was in the United States at the time, is under investigation for allegedly instigating the unrest.

He denies involvement. He called the events of January 8 a "setup" orchestrated by the left, in comments Saturday to CNN Brasil.

"We repudiated it from the start," he said. "That's never been the way the right behaves."

Lula called the former president a "coup-monger" in his speech, recalling relentless efforts by Bolsonaro and his supporters to raise doubts over the credibility of Brazil's electronic voting system.

The fallout from the riots continues.

Police said they carried out new raids Monday to track down those who planned and financed the attacks.

Of the 2,170 people arrested over the riots, 30 have been convicted so far, on charges including armed criminal conspiracy, violent uprising against the rule of law and an attempted coup, with sentences of up to 17 years.

The riots were the culmination of months of tension in Brazil around the October 2022 elections, in which Lula narrowly beat Bolsonaro to return to office for a third term.

On the surface, the country's divisions are less extreme today: The far-right is still reeling from backlash to the riots, as well as electoral authorities' decision last June to bar Bolsonaro from running for office for eight years over his attacks on the credibility of the election system.

But deep-running fissures remain. A Quaest poll published Sunday found 51 percent say the riots were carried out by "radicals who do not represent" Bolsonaro supporters.

Restored artworks

The ceremony, dubbed "Democracy Unbowed," featured the presentation of a restored tapestry by Brazilian artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, which rioters ripped from a wall in the Senate, tore and urinated on during the attacks.

A replica of the constitution taken from the Supreme Court was also symbolically returned.

Attendees included the leader of the Senate, state governors, military commanders and foreign ambassadors.

But the display of democratic unity was undermined by some notable absences on the right, such as Sao Paulo Governor Tarcisio Freitas, a former Bolsonaro minister touted as a possible presidential contender.

Hardline Bolsonaro backers meanwhile stand staunchly by the January 8 protesters.

In the buildup to the anniversary, calls circulated on social media to celebrate January 8 as "Patriot's Day" and take to the streets.

But on Monday in the country's two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate and defend democracy -- and repudiate last year's unrest in Brasilia.

"The extreme right can not advance. If it advances here, it advances around the world," said Jorge Louis Viera de Souza, a 72-year-old retiree demonstrating in Rio, noting he felt like Brazil pulled back from "the edge of the precipice" a year ago.

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