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Lula fetes democracy a year after Brazil capital riots

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will commemorate the first anniversary of the far-right riots in the Brazilian capital.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will mark the first anniversary Monday of the far-right riots that rocked the Brazilian capital last year, with a ceremony in Congress declaring “democracy unbowed.”

Lula will convene a Who’s Who of Brazil’s political bigwigs to take stock of what he calls the “coup attempt” of January 8, 2023 — but with key absences on the right undermining his message of unity.

Tens of thousands of supporters of Lula’s defeated election rival, far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, stormed the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court that day, trashing the premises and calling on the military to oust the veteran leftist.

The scenes 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.

“I believe someone was directly responsible, someone planned the whole thing, then, like a coward, went into hiding and left Brazil,” Lula told newspaper Metropoles in an interview published Friday.

“That person was the former president.”

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

He denies responsibility.

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.

Bolsonaro denials

Bolsonaro 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.

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“It was a movement convened on social media accounts that aren’t ours… That’s never been the way the right behaves.”

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

On the surface, those 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 analysts say deep-running fissures remain.

A Quaest poll published Sunday found 89 percent of Brazilians reject the January 8 attacks.

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But that was down five percentage points from a year ago.

Fifty-one percent meanwhile say the riots were carried out by “radicals who do not represent” Bolsonaro supporters.

Restored artworks

Lula, 78, will mark the anniversary by addressing a ceremony at the Congress building, with attendees including the leaders of both houses, state governors, military commanders and foreign ambassadors.

The event, dubbed “Democracy Unbowed,” will feature the presentation of a restored tapestry by iconic Brazilian artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, which was ripped from a wall in the Senate and torn during the riots.

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

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There will be 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.

However, authorities say they do not expect mass protests.

Around 2,000 police are due to be deployed to provide security in the capital.

– By: © Agence France-Presse

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