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Latam Brief: Bolsonaristas riot in Brasilia (December 13, 2022)

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rioted yesterday in Brasilia — they set several cars and buses on fire after a failed attempt to invade the federal police headquarters, where one of their leaders was detained. Protesters also spread to other points in the capital, blocking roads with pieces of concrete, cones and, at least at one point, with a burnt-out bus.

A separate group demonstrated outside the presidential palace, calling for a military intervention. Bolsonaro joined his supporters in prayer outside the presidential palace yesterday, but did not address the crowd.

The outbreak of violence came after the country’s electoral court, the TSE, certified the Oct. 30 election, in which Bolsonaro failed in his bid for a second mandate. It also followed a judicial order for the temporary arrest of José Acácio Serere Xavante, a radical Bolsonaro supporter, for allegedly carrying out anti-democratic acts. Brazil’s Supreme Court said Xavante had “expressly summoned armed people to prevent the certification of elected” politicians.

The incident raised comparisons to the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump, a close-ally of Bolsonaro.

A close aide of president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said there were concerns about the physical safety of Lula and Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin, as protesters had surrounded the hotel where he is staying in Brasilia.

 The outbreak of violence has sparked fears there could be further upheaval in the lead-up to Lula’s inauguration.

(Reuters, Guardian, Folha de S. Paulo)

More Brazil

  • Earlier in the day, Lula broke down in tears at a ceremony ratifying his election win. He praised “the boldness of the Brazilian people in handing this document to someone who’s been attacked so many times for not having a university diploma.” (Deutsche Welle)


  • Chilean political parties agreed on a process to draft a new constitutional rewrite proposal: a constitutional council of 50 elected officials and a commission of 24 experts appointed by Congress. The process will be markedly faster than the previous Constitutional Convention: the experts will start work in January, the council will be elected in April and have five months to work, and the final plebiscite to ratify or reject the proposal will be in November, 2023. (El País, Bloomberg)

  • The agreement, which took weeks of wrangling among Chilean political parties, is a victory for President Gabriel Boric, who has pushed for an elected, rather than designated council. But the design of the process, which gives experts the job of putting together an initial proposal, and then editing the constitution drafted by the council, reflects the will of right-wing parties that seek to avoid a refoundational document, reports El País.


  • The recently ousted Peruvian president, Pedro Castillo, called his successor, Dina Boluarte, a “usurper” and the “snot and slobber of the coup-mongering right,” in a handwritten letter penned from a jail cell. (Guardian)

  • The letter came amid widespread protests against Castillo’s detention and calling for early elections. (See yesterday’s post.) Amnesty International called on Peruvian authorities to “refrain from using excessive force in response to the demonstrations,” after confirming at least two deaths and dozens of injuries.

  • Regardless of the protests’ demands, it’s important to take into account the anger Castillo’s supporters feel “at the appearance that a Peruvian president elected by the rural poor was forced from office by urban, political elites who rarely care about the lives of the people outside of Lima,” notes the Latin America Risk Report.


  • The latest spate of political crises across the region — from challenges to the electoral system in Mexico and Brazil, to corruption trials in Argentina, and Castillo’s attempted coup — show that “the guardrails of democracy can hold in the hemisphere,” argues James Bosworth in World Politics

  • Looking ahead to 2023, the region can expect continued instability, writes Oliver Stuenkel in Americas Quarterly. A negative economic context will likely be compounded by political instability, further strengthening strong anti-incumbent voter sentiment.

  • Once Lula is sworn in, next month, the largest Latin American countries will be governed by leftists. “Not since the first electoral “pink tide” swept across Latin America in the first decade of the millennium has the region been so ready and willing to challenge US leadership,” writes William LeoGrande in The Nation. “The left turn in Latin American politics, combined with China’s concerted efforts to expand its influence in the region, are imposing real and growing diplomatic costs on Washington for clinging to an ineffective Cuba policy.”

  • In a seven-part investigation, the Washington Post traced the synthetic-drug crisis from the back alleys of Tijuana, Mexico, to official Washington and from warehouses in northern Mexico to neighborhoods in Utah, Colorado and San Diego.


  • Migrant flows across Central America are creating an economic boom in their wake, even as vulnerable travelers face exploitation, reports the Guardian.


  • South American soccer players have taken their love of yerba mate around the world, and have lugged thousands of pounds of the herbal tea to Qatar. (New York Times)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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