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Assault on Brazilian Democracy – Pierre Haski

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Assault on Brazilian Democracy – Pierre Haski

09 January 2023 10:24

Brazilian democracy has survived. However, as happened in the United States after the assault on Congress on January 6, 2021, in the future the country will have to overcome a political crisis that affects the foundations of the democratic system.

The Black Sunday of Brazilian democracy was the breaking latest news of an announced catastrophe, because in Brazil we rediscovered all the elements that had characterized the crisis in the United States. And just like in Washington, the state in Brazil has also proved to be more resilient than the insurgents thought. And above all, the army has not responded to their appeals.

The similarities are evident: the weakening of democratic rules, with the dangerous contestation of electoral processes without any evidence and despite the denials of independent control institutions; a permanent discrediting of the world of information, which on 8 January led to the assault of six journalists; and finally a rejection of democracy itself, whose symbols have been plundered by an army of fanatics.

Nothing spontaneous
First of all we need to understand in detail what happened. From the outset it was clear that there was nothing spontaneous about the simultaneous invasion of the presidency, parliament and the supreme court.

Was it the backlash of an extreme Bolsonarist fringe? Or a more elaborate conspiracy, with political ramifications, financial means and accomplices within the state apparatus? Only investigations will clarify. In any case, the first head fell in the evening, that of the head of security in Brasília and former Bolsonaro justice minister, Anderson Torres. The authorities have also identified the buses that carried protesters from the rest of the country and are trying to figure out who paid to organize the trips.

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In Brazil, Lula has already been president for eight days, a fact that is no longer contestable

Finally, as in the United States, it will be necessary to address the question of the personal role of the former president, who is currently a refugee in Orlando, Florida. Bolsonaro condemned the events of January 8 without too much conviction, but the same doubts that surrounded Trump two years ago hover over him.

Unlike the events of the congress, which had taken place before the certification of the election results, in Brazil Lula has already been president for eight days, a fact that is no longer contestable.


Nonetheless, Lula finds himself leading a country that is shocked, split and where a part of the electorate does not recognize his legitimacy. His ability to govern will also depend on the attitude of Bolsonaro supporters in senior positions, from regional governors to lawmakers. Will they follow democratic norms? Or will they be at the mercy of the extreme fringes of Bolsonarists, as happened to the Trumpians we have seen at work in the House of Representatives these days?

The democratic question remains, which is also universal: how to repair a democratic fabric torn apart by populist rhetoric but also disillusioned by the failure to respect many values? Ultimately this will be the most difficult mission. Lula will have to demonstrate that he is capable of it, the very one who attracted part of the hatred that exploded on 8 January to her name. It won’t be easy at all.

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(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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