Biden and Lula speak after January 6-style insurrection rocks Brazil

President Joe Biden spoke with Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Monday, a day after right-wing supporters of ousted ex-president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the presidsential palace, Supreme Court and legislative body of Brazil.

It was a chaotic scene that lasted for several hours and ended in thousands of arrests; all the while, the similarities to the US’s own January 6 attack on Congress were inescapable down to the attendance of a man dressed like the QAnon Shaman.

The White House confirmed the call Monday afternoon, and a joint statement from the two American leaders was released moments later.

“President Biden conveyed the unwavering support of the United States for Brazil’s democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people as expressed in Brazil’s recent presidential election, which President Lula won,” read the joint statement.

It continued: “President Biden condemned the violence and the attack on democratic institutions and on the peaceful transfer of power. The two leaders pledged to work closely together on the issues confronting the United States and Brazil, including climate change, economic development, and peace and security.

The statement concluded with news that Mr Lula had accepted an invitation to visit Mr Biden at the White House early next month.

The conversation between the two leaders comes as it is speculated that Brazil’s government may push for the extradition of Mr Bolsonaro, who fled to Florida as his rule ended to avoid legal challenges.

Mr Bolsonaro is accused of fomenting the protests that overwhelmed the seat of Brazil’s civilian government on Sunday even as he remains essentially in exile; it wasn’t clear what the exact aim of the attack was, given that Mr Lula was not in the palace at the time, the legislature was not in session, and the transfer of power had occurred a week earlier.

The White House earlier in the day confirmed that the US had not yet received an official request for the extradition of Mr Bolsonaro, though that could obviously change if the latter is formally indicted in a Brazilian court.

“We have not, as of now, received any official requests from the Brazilian government related to Bolsonaro,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

Mr Bolsonaro was known to be an ally of former President Donald Trump, making the likenesses to January 6 during Sunday’s attack all the more obvious.

Adding to the issue was Mr Bolsonaro’s public threats throughout 2021 to potentially refuse to accept the rightful results of his reelection contest should it go in Mr Lula’s favour. The leftist new president was previously jailed on corruption charges that were anulled by the nation’s highest court for due proccess violations; the judge in the case was ruled to have been biased against him by the Supreme Court.

Mr Bolsonaro has commented pubicly on the attempt by his supporters to storm the legislature and other government buildings, calling Sunday’s incident an “invasion” of public buildings that was not protected by law, even as his supporters decried a supposed dictatorship as they were arrested in droves and hauled out of restricted areas after the riot.

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The Biden administration swore in its ambassador to Brazil on Monday, where Vice President Kamala Harris condemned the attack after conducting the ceremony.

“Well, let’s be clear. This was an obvious and clear attack on a democratic process. And we condemn it,” she said.

“Of course, I will also say that as I’ve said to the ambassador, Ambassador Bagley, I’m very confident in her ability to represent the United States and to extend to President Lula all that we need in terms of the work that we will do together as allies on some of the most important issues facing our world. So we’re very much looking forward to her leadership and to work with President Lula,” added the vice president.

The swift reaction by Brazil’s law enforcement to round up the rioters (with some notable exceptions of officers who appeared to be aiding the crowd) came as a sharp contrast to the months- and now years-long effort by the US Department of Justice to bring individual participants in January 6 into custody. Many Democrats who were shocked by the inability of law enforcement to get the attack on Congress under control pointed to the scene in Brasilia as an example of members of law enforcement doing their jobs properly.

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Some analysts have predicted that Mr Bolsonaro will now face legal charges stemming from his own effort to foment a violent movement of election deniers within Brazil; more than 250 roadblocks were set up around the country by irate Bolsonaro supporters in the weeks and months following the 30 October election. m

Many of the demonstrators hope the military will seize power from Mr Lula on their behalf, but the Biden administration has sought to cool those fears with repeated statements of support for Mr Lula’s government which inherently suggest that they would view a seizure of power on behalf of Mr Bolsonaro or the right wing as a coup.