Capitol Hill riot repeated in Brazil, embarrassing US' phony, moralistic rhetoric
Published: Jan 10, 2023 12:06 AM
Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (back) clash with law enforcement officers in Brasilia, Brazil on January 9, 2023. The law-enforcement troops form a chain behind barriers and fire tear gas grenades at the demonstrators. An armored water cannon is also deployed. Photo: IC

Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (back) clash with law enforcement officers in Brasilia, Brazil on January 9, 2023. The law-enforcement troops form a chain behind barriers and fire tear gas grenades at the demonstrators. An armored water cannon is also deployed. Photo: IC

Storming major government buildings, trying to burn carpet, smashing windows, destroying artworks, and using furniture to form barricades against police… Video clips show that two years after the US Capitol Hill assault, a similar riot reoccurred in Brazil on Sunday evening, a week after Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's inauguration. 

Comparing to Capitol Hill assault by Trump supporters, Chinese experts said that riot in Brazil, which has stormed the highest executive, legislative and judicial organs, had a consistent logic: to deny the election result and even the system itself. 

Despite US President Joe Biden denouncing the riots as an "assault on democracy" in a Twitter post, the spread of "made-in-US" Capitol Hill riot model has made Washington's phony, moralistic rhetoric ridiculous, and the "Capitol Hill riot" has the potential to be repeated in other Latin American countries, where US regards as its sphere of influence, experts noted.

Online video clips showed that protestors overwhelmed police barricades and broke glass to enter Congress, which was not in session when the riot occurred, which President Lula decried as "barbarism". Protesters who believed President Lula's victory was stolen from his predecessor president Jair Bolsonaro, breached Brazil's Congress, presidential building and the Supreme Court. According to the BBC, Bolsonaro's supporters even tried to attack the headquarters of the federal police in Brasilia.

CNN Brazil said Lula was in Sao Paulo when the event began, and there were some officials in the presidential palace. According to a BBC report, Lula has ordered to dispatch the National Guard into the capital to restore order, and ordered the closure of the centre of the capital for 24 hours, vowing to punish rioters. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a Monday press briefing that Brazil is China's comprehensive strategic partner, and China supports the measures taken by the Brazilian government to calm the situation, restore social order and maintain national stability.

We believe that under the leadership of President Lula, Brazil will maintain stability and social harmony, Wang said. 

The Chinese Embassy in Brazil also reminded Chinese nationals in Brazil to strengthen security precautions, stay away from demonstrations, and timely report to police and contact the embassy for assistance in case of emergency. 

According to CNN Brazil, several hours after the breaches, the three buildings had been cleared of protesters, and at least 400 people have been arrested. 

US-made 'political virus'

Bolsonaro supporters have never stopped protesting since Lula won Brazilian election in late October. Some of them have blocked roads, set fires on vehicles and urged the military to intervene. The head of Brazil's electoral authority also rejected Bolsonaro camp's request to nullify ballots cast on most electronic voting machines, CNBC reported. 

Bolsonaro denied responsibility for the unrest through Twitter posts, saying the accusation was "without evidence" and "invasions of public buildings as occurred today escaped the rules." 

Facing investigations for his time in office, Bolsonaro flew to Florida in December to skip Lula's inauguration, and refused to concede after defeat, while questioning the Brazilian election system's reliability without evidence.  

According to report from CNBC, Trump's key strategist Steve Bannon and Jason Miller have reportedly been advising Bolsonaro since his defeat, and his son, Brazilian congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in November. The BBC said Bannon has stoked up allegations of a "stolen election" and shadowy forces, inciting Bolsonaro supporters to storm government buildings with unproven rumors and conspiracy theory. 

Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that the riots in Brazil and the US can be both traced back to Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

CPAC is an annual political conference attended by the world conservative activists. It was hosted by American Conservative Union. The first CPAC in Brazil took place on October 2019 in Sao Paulo, attended by leading American conservatives and Eduardo Bolsonaro.

"Both Trump and Bolsonaro have endorsed the CPAC while they were in office, and made its far-right conservatism taken root in their countries," Zhou said, "and the two riots reflected the same logic, which is denial of the election results, and even the system itself." 

Brazil is an important part of CPAC's global outreach to far-right conservatives, and whether Lula can contain the flames of the far right is not only crucial for Brazil but also Latin America, Zhou said. 

Wang Youming, director of the Institute of Developing Countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times that if Trump, or a far-right populist like him, is elected as US president in 2024, that may not be good news for Latin America's stability, especially given the record of the US intervening in the regional affairs through color revolution and military intervention.

Without a full industrialization, it is easy to cause social protests and even violent impact if the American style democratic election is copied, Wang said, noting that the democratic politics in Latin America is fragile and unstable.

When the Capitol Hill riot has made the US fall from the so-called "altar of democracy," US politicians are still exporting its political models, causing instability in other countries, Wang said. 

The impact of far-right 

According to Chinese experts, "Capitol Hill riot" has the possibility to repeat in other Latin American countries, with regard to the spillover effect of Brazil, the biggest country in the region.  

Brazilian politics is a bellwether for regional politics, said Wang, noting that Bolsonaro, a follower of Trump, also has populist or right-wing imitators in Latin America.

Despite Lula's victory was viewed as part of Latin America's "new pink tide": eight countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile have elected left-wing leaders since 2018, experts believe that the "pink tide" is still fragile. 

In Brazil, Colombia and Chile, the left wing won on the basis of broader electoral coalitions, while the far right was only narrowly behind, Zhou said. 

In the past, a country could improve its people's livelihood through international cooperation. However, current prolonged global economic downturn and geopolitical contradictions have made it more difficult. 

And if people's livelihoods are not continuously improved, social contradictions will be intensified, resulting in dissatisfaction with the current system, especially in Latin America, where the poor population is still relatively large, Zhou said, "That's how the far right rise."

These problems are not unique to Brazil, which raises the possibility that the pattern of Capitol Hill attack could be replicated in Latin America, Zhou said. 

The impact of far right will intensify political antagonism in Latin America, which means not only limiting the policy arrangements of left-wing governments, but also increasing political and economic risks in the region, experts said. 

The leftwing government pays more attention to social justice and people's livelihoods. In an environment of political confrontation, the leftwing policy proposition and implementation may be compromised, especially considering that the fiscal condition is relatively tight under the economic downturn, Zhou said.