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Authorities probe who was behind uprising in Brazil

by The Associated Press | January 10, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, 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)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazilian authorities said Monday that they were looking into who may have been behind the shocking uprising that sent protesters storming into the nation's halls of power in a riot that had striking similarities to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In an unprecedented display for Latin America's largest nation, thousands of supporters of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro swarmed into Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace on Sunday. Many of them said they wanted the Brazilian army to restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power and oust the newly inaugurated leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Also on Monday, police broke down a pro-Bolsonaro encampment outside a military building and detained some 1,200 people there, the justice ministry's press office told The Associated Press. The federal police press office said the force already plans to indict roughly 1,000 people.

Lula and the heads of the Supreme Court, Senate and Lower House signed a letter that denounced the attack and said were taking legal measures.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino told reporters that police have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital. Speaking Monday at a news conference, he said rioters apparently intended for their displays to create a domino effect nationwide, and that they could be charged with a range of offenses, including organized crime, staging a coup and violent abolition of the democratic rule of law.

"We think that the worst is over," Dino said, adding that the government is now focused on punishing lawbreakers and those who enabled them. "We cannot and will not compromise in fulfilling our legal duties, because this fulfillment is essential so such events do not repeat themselves."

Rioters wearing the green and yellow of the national flag broke windows, toppled furniture and hurled computers and printers to the ground. They punched holes in a massive Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting at the presidential palace and destroyed other works of art. They overturned the U-shaped table where Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice's office and vandalized a statue outside the court. The buildings' interiors were left in ruins.

Monday's detainments came in addition to the 300 people who were arrested Sunday during the riot.

Police were noticeably slow to react -- even after the arrival of more than 100 buses -- leading many to question whether authorities had either simply ignored numerous warnings, underestimated the protesters' strength or been somehow complicit.

Prosecutors in the capital said local security forces were negligent at the very least. A supreme court justice temporarily suspended the regional governor. Another justice blamed authorities for not swiftly cracking down on budding neofascism in Brazil.

  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, take selfies as they storm the the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police 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)
 
 
  photo  A protester, supporter of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, empties a fire extinguisher after protesters stormed Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Police stand on the other side of a window at Planalto Palace that was shattered by protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, after they stormed the official workplace of the president in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, attack a police vehicle after they stormed the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, 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)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, clash with police during a protest outside the Planalto Palace building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Other demonstrators stormed congress and the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 
  photo  Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
 
 

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