Brazilian radical leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva directly accused his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday of being involved in the riot that destroyed parts of the headquarters of all three branches of government on January 8.
Bolsonaro was in Florida at the time of the riot and had for months encouraged his followers not to engage in violence or disrupt society to protest Lula, a convicted felon who defeated Bolsonaro in the October presidential election.
“Today I am aware, and I will say here loud and clear, that this citizen [Bolsonaro] prepared a coup,” Lula asserted. “They wanted to make that mess on January 1, but they realized that it wasn’t possible because there were too many police and too many people on the streets.”
Lula da Silva made his accusations against Bolsonaro during a pre-recorded interview given to the Brazilian television network RedeTV, which was broadcast on Thursday evening.
When asked if he was certain of Bolsonaro’s involvement in the January 8 riots, Lula reiterated that he was “sure” of Bolsonaro’s participation.
“I am sure that Bolsonaro actively participated in this, and is still trying to participate. That is, he is an almost psychopathic citizen, that is, this citizen doesn’t think, he doesn’t reason, he spews things out, with the greatest disrespect in the world, with the greatest lack of objectivity and sincerity in the world.”
Thousands of protesters stormed the premises of the nation’s Congress, Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), and the Planalto presidential palace on January 8, causing damages to the facilities and to the priceless historical artifacts that were housed therein. While police documented some injuries, the riot did not result in any deaths.
Lula da Silva narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in a heated presidential election in October. The hardline socialist, who had been convicted and sentenced to over two decades in prison for alleged corruption, had his multiple convictions overturned by the nation’s top court on procedural grounds in 2021, which allowed him to run for president again in 2022. Protesters targeted the STF headquarters on January 8 in large part to protest Lula’s eligibility to run for president at all.
In January, Alexandre de Moraes, the head of the Supreme Federal Tribunal, authorized the opening of a probe against Bolsonaro for alleged “instigation and intellectual authorship of the anti-democratic acts that resulted in vandalism and violence.”
“Here in Brazil we defeated Bolsonaro, but it is still possible to defeat Bolsonarism, which is that fanatic, the one that believes in everything, the one that offends people, the one that curses people,” Lula said to the interviewer.
Bolsonaro traveled to the United States in December with a diplomatic visa that expired at the end of his presidential term and has remained lodged in a house in Orlando, Florida, since then, through a 30-day grace period after his visa’s expiration.
The former Brazilian president’s attorney announced on Monday that Bolsonaro applied for a six-month tourist visa to remain in the United States and may pursue a more permanent arrangement if approved. In comments given to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Bolsonaro stated that, based on Italian legislation, he would be entitled to obtain Italian citizenship, but did not confirm if he would initiate the legal proceedings to obtain dual citizenship.
“I am Italian. My name is Bolsonaro, my grandparents were from Padua,” Bolsonaro said. “Under your law, I am Italian and with very little bureaucracy I would have full citizenship.”
Bolsonaro is slated to participate in an event hosted by Turning Point USA on Friday afternoon in Miami.
“Former Brazil President Jair Messias Bolsonaro is set to appear at a Turning Point USA event on Friday, which will be his first public event since the Brazilian presidential election in October.” https://t.co/gpEjOURZ8p
— Turning Point USA (@TPUSA) February 1, 2023
During his interview, Lula also issued a threat to the autonomy of Brazil’s central bank. The institution currently operates with complete autonomy thanks to a law passed in 2021 that, in addition to restructuring the institution’s organizational structure, aimed to shield the central bank from any pressure from the nation’s political parties.
The Central Bank of Brazil is currently led by Roberto Campos Neto, who was appointed by Bolsonaro in 2019 and whose term was extended to the end of 2024.
“Is this country doing well? Is this country growing? Are people’s lives improving? No!” Lula exclaimed. “Then I want to know what the point of independence was. I will finish, this citizen [Campos Neto] will finish his mandate so we can make an evaluation of what the independent Central Bank has meant.”
Lula’s threats to the autonomy of the nation’s central bank come after the institution announced that it would keep Brazil’s basic interest rate at 13.75 percent for the fourth year in a row, a target percentage that Lula had previously claimed would hinder Brazil’s economic growth.
“What is on the agenda is the question of the interest rate,” Lula said to the interviewer. “The other day I complained that they made an inflation target of 13.7 percent. When you set an inflation target of 13.7 percent, you are exaggerating on a promise that you have to squeeze to keep.”
The Brazilian president also expressed his intention to discuss the matter of social media regulation with far-left President Joe Biden during Lula’s upcoming visit to the White House on February 10.
“You can’t publish something and just say ‘that’s a lie.’ If it is a lie, it cannot be published,” Lula claimed. “I think that maybe nobody knows how to do it alone, but if we open up a debate in society, if we open up the people who are specialists in the Internet, if we open up the media, and we have a discussion.”
Lula then continued by asserting that “the only way to have a regulation [of social media] is worldwide.”
“You can’t make a regulation only in the country, so it has to be an issue to be discussed in the G20,” Lula said. He explained his reasoning by adding that “Biden defeated Trump, but he didn’t defeat the extreme right, it is alive.”
Last week, Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino presented a bill proposal to Lula da Silva that aims to regulate social media in Brazil. The proposed piece of legislation would punish online content deemed “terrorist” and “anti-democratic” and is part of a four-piece “Democracy Package” drafted as a response to the January 8 riots.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.