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Brazil police restore order after pro-Bolsonaro ‘fascist’ protesters storm govt. buildings

Protesters, supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Supreme Court building in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 8, 2023. (Photo by AP)

Brazilian police have arrested hundreds of protesters and wrested back control of key governmental buildings after they were overrun by unruly supporters of the ultra-right-wing former president Jair Bolsonaro.

"We have approximately 200 people arrested in flagrante delicto, and arrests in flagrante delicto continue because technically the flagrant occurs during the commission of the crime or shortly after," Brazil's Justice Minister Flavio Dino said.

The police said at least 300 people had been detained in the capital, Brasilia, adding that investigations will continue "until the last member is identified".

Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, however, put the number of detainees at 400.

The arrests were made after Bolsonaro's rioting supporters ransacked the presidential palace, the Supreme Court and the Congress. The riots capped months of tension following the October 30 presidential vote that Bolsonaro lost to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

President Lula blamed Bolsonaro for instigating his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations about the election result, vowing to bring those responsible for the "fascist" assault to justice.

“There is no precedent for what they did,” Lula told reporters in Sao Paulo State on Sunday. "All the people who did this will be found and punished."

The leftist president, who took office on January 1, also declared federal intervention in public security in the capital lasting until January 31.

He said the local militarized police force that reports to Rocha, a former Bolsonaro ally, did nothing to stop the advance of the protesters.

According to the justice minister, investigations are underway to uncover who financed the several hundred buses that brought Bolsonaro's supporters and to probe Rocha for not preparing security.

Brazil Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes removed Rocha for 90 days alleging security flaws that allowed the invasion of government buildings.

The attack was the worst on the country's institutions since democracy was restored four decades ago.

Observers have compared the raids to the January 6, 2021 invasion of the US Capitol building by supporters of then US President Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, and have termed the situation as a serious episode of "political unrest."

Many Latin American leaders spoke out against the raid, with Chilean President Gabriel Boric calling it a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy” and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador denouncing it a “reprehensible coup attempt”.

The Bolsonaro-allied fanatics refuse to accept his narrow defeat during October's presidential elections against 77-year-old Lula.

Lula was sworn in on January 1, unleashing a barrage of rebuke against Bolsonaro for, what he called, his predecessor's egregious mishandling of the country's affairs during his mandate.

Hours before the monumental swearing-in ceremony, which some 30,000 Brazilians attended, Lula blamed Bolsonaro for causing hunger to return to the country, despite his own presidential rule during which millions were lifted out of poverty.

He said he had received a ruined country, whose former government had depleted all resources and undermined human rights.

The leftist leader also accused Bolsonaro's "negationist" administration of committing "genocide" by failing to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic that killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.

"Democracy was the great victor in this election...," Lula said on the day.

Bolsonaro has, however, questioned, without evidence, the credibility of the country's electronic voting system.

He fled Brazil to Florida two days before the end of his mandate, reportedly to avoid going through the ceremonial handing over of the presidential sash to Lula.

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