Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

Jan 9, 2023, 1:08 AM | Updated: Jan 10, 2023, 7:31 am
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...

FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the National Congress building after they stormed it, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

              FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
            
              FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            
              FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol as they riot in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
            
              FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump confront police as they storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
            
              FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
            
              FILE - Windows are cracked and broken insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump as they stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
            
              FILE - Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump stand on stairs to a balcony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
            
              FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the National Congress building after they stormed it, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)
            FILE - A protester, supporter of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, looks out from a shattered window of the Planalto Palace after he and many others stormed it, in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File) FILE - A worker inspects destroyed computers in the main entrance of Planalto Palace, the office of the president, the day after it was stormed by supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The protesters also stormed Congress and the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File) FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, attack a police armored vehicle as they storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File) FILE - A protester, supporter of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, waves a Brazilian national flag from a window after storming the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File) FILE - Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., stops to look at the damage in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2021, after insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours before order could be restored.

Sunday’s attack by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s capital drew immediate parallels with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s backers two years and two days earlier.

The two populist former presidents shared a close political alliance with an overlapping cast of supporters — some of whom helped spread Trump’s lies about losing his re-election due to voter fraud and later parroted Bolsonaro’s similar claims after his own re-election loss last fall. Bolsonaro was among the last world leaders to recognize Joe Biden’s victory in 2020.

“The U.S. example of election denying and creating alternative facts, and radicalizing law enforcement, and of openly disparaging democratic institutions was a template that I don’t think Bolsonaro et al would have come up with on their own,” said Scott Hamilton, a former U.S. diplomat in Brazil.

Still, experts warn against conflating the two attacks.

There were “undeniable similarities” to Jan. 6, said Graham Brookie, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, which tracks disinformation around the globe.

“The imagery. A lot of the calls for action on social media are very, very similar,” he said. “But there’s a huge caveat. Democracy in Brazil is a lot different than democracy here in the United States. The culture, the context, even the institutions are really different, and that really matters.”

Many of the connections are out in the open. Bolsonaro’s lawmaker son, Eduardo, in 2019 signed on to work with Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s international populist movement. Bannon became one of the loudest proponents of Trump’s election lies in 2020 and has amplified Bolsonaro’s claims about rigged voting machines.

Trump was one of Bolsonaro’s few foreign allies, and Bolsonaro often exalted his American counterpart’s leadership, even posting photos of himself watching Trump’s addresses. He and his son visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago, and both attended dinners at Bannon’s house.

After Sunday’s rioting in Brasilia, Bannon called the protesters “Brazilian freedom fighters” in a video on social media.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, a key gathering of right-wing activists that has been a hotbed of pro-Trump enthusiasm, met in Sao Paulo in September. One of the attendees, former Trump spokesman Jason Miller, was later detained by Brazilian authorities before leaving the country.

“We do not advocate violence but believe peaceful protests are proper and that the situation in Brazil should be fully investigated,” Matt Schlapp, CPAC’s lead organizer, said in a statement to The Associated Press in reaction to the weekend rioting.

Protesters stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace, with some calling for the military to oust President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Others waved banners suggesting they believed claims that voting machines were programmed to steal the election from Bolsonaro, reminiscent of signs brandished on Jan. 6 promoting similar conspiracy theories in the U.S.

The images of Brazilian protesters fighting with police guarding the complex, breaking into government offices and searching the desks of opposition lawmakers added to the flashbacks about the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The attacks followed months of Bolsonaro exploiting fears about election integrity without offering evidence, similar to Trump in 2020.

In November, Bolsonaro blamed his loss on a software bug and called for most electronic votes to be annulled. Independent experts rejected his claim, and Bolsonaro’s bid to annul the votes failed.

Social media still throbbed with misinformation about the election after it ended, and posts urging Brazilians to converge on their capital city on Sunday to challenge the election results went viral on TikTok, Facebook, Telegram and other platforms. One post racked up more than 800,000 views just since Friday, according to an analysis by Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking organization.

Wendy Via, president of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said Sunday’s riots are yet another example of how online misinformation and rhetoric can spur violence if they’re deployed by a leader with a large enough audience.

“We did see this coming,” Via said. “This doesn’t just happen in Brazil, or the United States. This is a global problem. Should we compare what happened in Brazil to Jan. 6? I say 100%, because it’s the same playbook.”

But there are important differences between the two attacks and the forces in the two countries that propelled them.

“This was not part of an orchestrated movement to overturn the election results,” said Christopher Garman, managing director of the Americas for the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting group. “It’s a little bit of a different animal” than Jan. 6, he said.

On Jan. 6, 2021, Trump was still president, and he urged his supporters at his rally on the ellipse to march to the Capitol and stop Congress’ ratification of Joe Biden’s victory. In Brasilia, the protest occurred on a Sunday, when few were in government offices and Bolsonaro had already relinquished power.

Bolsonaro had even left the country — to Trump’s adopted home state of Florida, where he appears to have been staying in the Orlando area. On Monday, he checked into a hospital there, complaining of abdominal pains.

Garman said Bolsonaro’s hand may have been checked by Brazil’s supreme court, which has been aggressively penalizing misinformation about the election to the point of censoring social media accounts and news reports that it found misleading. Bolsonaro knew that if he pushed too hard, the court could rule he could not run for public office again.

“If he had followed the Trump path, his political rights would have already been suspended,” Garman said.

The situation in Brazil is also more fraught than in the U.S. Systemic corruption is a greater concern in that country, as is the stability of what is still a fairly young democracy after decades of authoritarian rule that lasted through the 1980s. The man who beat Bolsonaro, Lula, is a former president who was imprisoned on corruption charges during Bolsonaro’s initial 2018 election, only to have his conviction annulled by Brazil’s supreme court.

The anti-establishment anger may sound familiar to those who follow U.S. politics — a hyper-polarized political environment and a weakened center, along with mounting distrust in both institutions and those on the other side.

“It’s not healthy for any democracy to have these levels of distrust,” Garman said.

___

Associated Press writers David Biller in Rio de Janeiro and Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston Starbucks repor...
Associated Press

Starbucks misses sales, revenue estimates as China falters

Starbucks reported lower-than-expected sales in its fiscal first quarter, with COVID store shutdowns in China overshadowing stronger results elsewhere.
11 hours ago
The Amazon DTW1 fulfillment center is shown in Romulus, Mich., April 1, 2020. Amazon reports financ...
Associated Press

Amazon beats Q4 revenue estimates, but profits slump

Amazon on Thursday reported worse-than-expected profits, but its revenue beat expectations boosted by sales in North America businesses and the cloud-computing unit AWS.
11 hours ago
legislature...
Associated Press

Washington’s low-income tax credit available for first time

 Up to $1,200 is now available for thousands of low-income working Washington residents, thanks to a 2008 law that has finally been funded.
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Family of Minneapolis man killed in no-knock raid sues city

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parents of Amir Locke, who was shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer when a SWAT team executed a no-knock search warrant one year ago, sued the city and the officer Friday, alleging he was “gunned down in cold blood” in violation of his constitutional rights. Locke, 22, who was […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Skull found in ’97 in remote Alaska belongs to New York man

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997 belongs to a New York man who likely died in a bear mauling, state authorities said. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday from Alaska state […]
1 day ago
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols leaning ...
Associated Press

Licenses suspended for 2 fired EMTs in Tyre Nichols death

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee board on Friday suspended the emergency medical technician licenses of two former Memphis Fire Department employees for failing to render critical care to Tyre Nichols after he took a beating from police that ultimately killed him. The suspensions of EMT Robert Long and advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge build on […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical