Brazilians took to the streets to defend democracy: No amnesty for putschists

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Following the coup attempt by far-right Bolsonaro’s supporters in Brazil, mass demonstrations in major cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro chanted “No amnesty” and demanded the prosecution and imprisonment of those who attacked democracy.

In Brazil, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who skipped the handover ceremony to his leftist successor Lula da Silva, claiming that the elections he lost in Brazil were rigged, and traveled to the United States, protested in major cities against the coup attempt. Similar to the January 6, 2021 Congress raid by supporters of former US President Donald Trump’s supporters, mass demonstrations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro after the supporters of the far-right Bolsonaro raided the presidential palace, Congress and the Federal Supreme Court in the capital Brasilia on January 8, 2023, chanted “No amnesty” (Sem anistia), demanding the imprisonment of the captured coup plotters.

‘They must be punished’

“These people must be punished, those who ordered it must be punished, those who paid for it must be punished,” Bety Amin, a 61-year-old therapist wearing a T-shirt with the word “Democracy” on the back, told AP. “They don’t represent Brazil, we represent Brazil,” Amin emphasized.

The pain of impunity under military dictatorship

The demand for accountability for coup plotters stems from decades of amnesty for members of the military who ruled Brazil during the 1964-85 dictatorship, despite being accused of human rights abuses and murders. The 2014 truth commission report sparked a debate on how Brazil is coming to terms with its dictatorial legacy.

‘Impunity leads to continued instability’

“Refusing to punish may prevent tensions for now, but it perpetuates instability,” said Luis Felipe Miguel, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia, who published a column last night titled “No Amnesty”. “This is the lesson we should learn from the fact that when the military dictatorship ended, it was preferable not to punish the regime’s murderers and torturers,” Miguel emphasized.

‘Charges are being prepared for at least 1000 people’

Brazilian police have detained nearly 1,500 rebels, some of whom they caught razing Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, while others were holed up in a camp in Brasilia. A federal police press spokesman told AP that they ‘plan to charge at least 1,000 people and have begun transferring those captured to Papuda prison’.

Justice Minister promises to bring to justice

Justice Minister Flávio Dino pledged to ‘prosecute those who operate behind the scenes to recruit supporters on social media and finance their transport for crimes such as organized crime, coup plotting and the violent overthrow of the democratic rule of law’.

‘We will not compromise’

Dino said that accusations that local security officials turned a blind eye to the unabated destruction by the rebels would also be investigated, adding, “We cannot and will not compromise in fulfilling our legal duties. It is essential that we fulfill our duties to prevent such incidents from recurring.”

In the immediate aftermath of the uprising, President Lula said that ‘fascist fanatics and their financial backers must be held accountable’ and accused Bolsonaro of ‘encouraging the uprising’. Lula’s decree ordering the federal government to take control of security in the capital was submitted to the Senate after being approved by the lower house of Congress last night.

When the army ignored calls for a coup

The revolt in Brasilia has reopened the threat to democracy posed by far-right elements who refuse to accept Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat. Since Bolsonaro narrowly lost the second round of the presidential election on October 30, his supporters have camped outside military barracks, calling on the military to intervene to oust Lula and keep Bolsonaro in power. When the military coup failed to materialize, they rose up themselves, dressed in Brazilian flags. It took hours before they were neutralized by the police.

A police officer: This is terrorism

Marcelo Menezes, a 59-year-old police officer from the state of Pernambuco who attended the demonstration in Sao Paulo, said: “What is happening is unacceptable. This is terrorism,” he added: “I am here to defend democracy, I am here to defend the people.”

In his inauguration speech on January 1, Lula detailed how the Bolsonaro administration had failed to fulfill its duties to the people, prompting chants of “No amnesty” from the crowd.

A leader who admires military dictatorship

Bolsonaro, a former captain who has expressed nostalgia for the dictatorship, praised torturers as heroes, lamented the lack of progress in executing communists, and held a ceremony on the anniversary of the 1964 coup, has sparked worldwide outrage for policies such as his promotion of the burning of the Amazon rainforest and his denial of the Covid pandemic.


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