Brazil: Pro-Bolsonaro Protests Enter Third Week and Spill Over into New York

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hold signs asking for military interventi

Brazilians held peaceful protests nationwide on Tuesday against the results of the October 30 presidential election in which socialist ex-president and convicted criminal Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva narrowly won against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

The protesters – who, in addition to the electoral results, are also protesting the nation’s top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), and its electoral authority, the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) – gathered in the states of Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Pernambuco, Paraná, Pará, Bahia, Goiás and Mato Grosso do Sul. The rallies convened in camps set up near military bases, requesting the aid of the armed forces, an intervention to ensure Lula does not take power. The protesters are also demanding more transparency in the electoral process, questioning the way the 2022 election was conducted.

Some protesters argue that Lula’s criminal convictions made him ineligible to be on the ballot and thus the results of the election illegitimate. Others argue that the TSE’s rampant censorship of news outlets and Bolsonaro supporters rendered the election unfree and unfair. A minority have called for a military coup to ensure Lula does not take over the presidency.

Brazilian network Jovem Pan reported on Tuesday that the government of Brazil’s Federal District (Brasilia) had blocked the flow of vehicles in the Esplanada dos Ministérios (known as the Monumental Axis) to prevent protesters from accessing the premises of the Supreme Federal Tribunal.

On November 10, Brazil’s armed forces concluded an audit of the 2022 presidential election, presenting a report that neither confirmed nor denied the existence of irregularities in the race — but emphasizing that the report had not “excluded the possibility of fraud.”

On Friday, Brazil’s armed forces released a joint statement in which they reaffirmed their support for democracy and the democratic rule of law, as well as calling the pro-Bolsonaro protests legitimate and condemning any “possible excesses.”

“Regarding the popular demonstrations that have been taking place in numerous places in the country, the Brazilian Navy, the Brazilian Army and the Brazilian Air Force reaffirm their unrestricted and unshakable commitment to the Brazilian People, to democracy and to the political and social harmony of Brazil,” the statement read in part, “ratified by the values ​​and traditions of the Armed Forces, always present and moderating in the most important moments of our history.”

“Thus, we condemn both the restriction of rights on by public agents as well as the excesses committed in the manifestations that restrict individual and collective rights or threaten citizen security;” it continued, “as well as the actions, on behalf of entities public or private, that feed the disharmony in society.”

Throughout the presidential election, Brazil’s TSE, led by STF minister (justice) and anti-“fake news” crusader Alexandre de Moraes, carried out a fierce censorship campaign against pro-Bolsonaro politicians in the name of halting “disinformation.” The TSE act that has attracted the most outrage from protesters is de Moraes’ decision to ban mentions of Lula’s corruption conviction. Lula was convicted and sentenced to over two decades in prison for allegedly taking bribe money during his presidency. The STF overturned the conviction on a technicality, allowing him to run for president but not challenging the evidence that he committed the crimes in question.

In contrast, the STE did little to censor Lula’s and his campaign’s claims that Bolsonaro was a “pedophile” or “cannibal.”

Following the presidential election and Lula da Silva’s proclamation as president-elect, the TSE has continued to fiercely censor pro-Bolsonaro chat groups on the WhatsApp and Telegram messaging platforms, as well as ordering the complete deplatforming of pro-Bolsonaro politicians from social media, blocking their respective accounts from being accessed within Brazilian territory without the use of censorship-circumventing tools such as a Virtual Private Network.

Alexandre de Moraes addressed the ongoing protests through his Twitter account on Monday evening.

“The people manifested freely and Democracy won! Brazil deserves peace, serenity, development and social equality. And undemocratic extremists deserve and will have criminal law enforcement,” the tweet reads.

Protests against Brazil’s top court and its members have not been limited to Brazilian territory but have extended beyond its borders as well.

On Sunday, a group of Bolsonaro supporters living in New York City protested against STF members outside a hotel in New York. The STF members had traveled to New York to participate in the LIDE Brazil conference, a gathering of business executives held in New York between November 14 – 15.

“Oh, he’s guarded, he’s a bandit,” shouted one of the protesters to STF member Gilmar Mendes as Mendes was being escorted leaving the hotel towards a vehicle.

During his speech at the opening of the LIDE Brazil event, Mendes made mention of the ongoing protests against the electoral results and the STF, saying, “the episodes of intolerance that we are now witnessing inspire the taking of an attitude that should be taken into effect in each competent sphere, but it also compels us to reflect on how institutions can deal with frustrated social expectations.”

“Being more direct, it is necessary to ask if there is something more behind the lunatic and hysterical speeches that call for military intervention,” he continued.

De Moraes, who also participated in the LIDE Brazil conference, called for even more regulation of social networks, claiming that ‘democracy was attacked in Brazil, but it survived” the peaceful protests by conservatives. 

“Disinformation and hate speech are eating away at democracy,” de Moraes warned.

“It is not possible for social networks to be no man’s land and digital militias to attack with impunity,” de Moraes concluded.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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