Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Brazil's Supreme Court will investigate if Bolsonaro incited the attack on Congress

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

In Brazil, the investigation into those who attacked the capital has widened to include the country's former president. It was a week ago today that thousands of supporters of far-right ex-leader Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brasilia.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

RASCOE: Video on social media shows the mob in this post screaming victory as they ransacked the Congress, the Supreme Court and the president's offices. Yesterday, the man who was supposed to be in charge of security, guarding the buildings, was arrested upon his return to Brazil from Florida. We are joined by NPR South America correspondent Carrie Kahn. She is in Rio de Janeiro. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So the latest on the investigation into the incident is that authorities are investigating the role of ex-President Bolsonaro. What is the evidence they have against him?

KAHN: A Supreme Court justice gave the authority to add Bolsonaro to the ongoing investigation. And he's cited this Facebook post that Bolsonaro put up two days after the attacks, claiming the current president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, didn't actually win the election. It falsely claimed that officials actually chose Lula. The justice said even though the post was after the riots, it speaks to Bolsonaro's possible conduct before the riots. Bolsonaro took down the post, and he condemned the violence in a tweet, but he has been pretty silent since losing narrowly to Lula last October and has long stoked false claims about fraud in Brazil's elections. You know, he never conceded to Lula. He didn't go to the inauguration, as tradition dictates, and he left the country two days before it, so - and like you said, he's in Florida, just outside Disney World.

RASCOE: So what about this head of security for the capital's police department? What are authorities saying about his role?

KAHN: They want to know what he did or did not do to safeguard the seats of government. His name is Anderson Torres, and he had left the country two days before the riot, also to Florida. Previously, he was Bolsonaro's justice minister and then assigned to head the capital police after the inauguration. But authorities say once in charge, he gutted the leadership of the force. He misled federal officials about security plans for the protest and then fled. Torres flew back from Florida yesterday and was arrested in Brasilia.

RASCOE: So what has the current president, President Lula, said about the investigation and how it's proceeding?

KAHN: Lula seems to get angrier each day, and he's been very vocal that he believes the police authorities, officers and even members of the military were in on the riots.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: He says, "I'm convinced the door to the presidential offices was opened to allow people to get inside." There are reports that there was a delay for hours to clear an encampment in front of army headquarters where rioters had retreated after the attack. Some reports say that that was for safety reasons. Others say it points to more evidence of collusion on the part of the military. Those Bolsonaro supporters had been in front of that army headquarters and camped there for months. Fueled by disinformation, they believe they can convince the military to overturn the election result. Investigators are also searching for who financed the riots. Thousands more people were transported to Brasilia on more than 100 buses. Authorities are looking at some powerful business leaders in the country, and authorities that - authorities say they paid for those tickets.

RASCOE: And so in about the minute we have left, does the Supreme Court and Lula have the backing to lead such a widespread investigation, going after powerful financial backers and politicians, too?

KAHN: The investigation is quite extensive. More than a thousand people have been arrested. But I was talking to political analyst Gustavo Ribeiro. He heads an English-language digital platform, The Brazilian Report. He said overwhelmingly Brazilians are disgusted with the storming of Brasilia, and it's politically advantageous for Lula to go big now.

GUSTAVO RIBEIRO: Let's be honest. This is not merely a legal case. This is also a political case. So you cannot go after political actors that are so relevant in the country without that momentum behind you.

KAHN: But he warns justice moves slowly in Brazil, so this could take a while to settle this storm.

RASCOE: That's NPR South America correspondent Carrie Kahn. Thanks, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.