coup d'état live

Image: Collective Manifest


The coup attempt made possible a great front for democracy, uniting the Three Powers of the Republic and civil society

The spectacle offered to the world on January 8, 2023 was surprising: in the postcard landscape of the monumental architectural complex of Brasília, capital of Brazil, thousands of people dressed in their colors and flag began to invade, with nothing to stop them – from a distance it looked like an enormous swarm of ants – the headquarters of the three Powers of the Republic. Those who knew her soon realized that a new type of coup d'état was taking place, televised live, directly by the people. It also showed images of the beginning of the invasion: a dense and long column of people marching towards the square, apparently escorted by police.

Hours later, police and soldiers dressed in black began to appear in that same scenario, who could not tell where they were coming from, throwing tear gas bombs and water jets to corner and expel the invaders from the palaces, the square and the esplanades where they were located. they fled, until its emptying late at night. It was later learned that many invaders had been stopped inside the palaces. But only on the following day did news become available of the damage they had done there and that they had arrived in Brasilia in the previous days. They were supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro, coming from the most diverse corners of the country, with free tickets, accommodation and food, in more than one hundred chartered buses or by other means of transport.

It was undoubtedly a bold political operation, with these supporters used as cannon fodder. Certainly, few of those who followed her on television managed to turn her off before she reached her happy ending, with the coup aborted, and with no victims of shots that could have been fired.

We Brazilians were also surprised. What I experienced must have happened in many homes in Brazil. The 8th was the Sunday following Lula's inauguration. I was attending a quiet family lunch at the home of a daughter who had been to Brasilia the previous Sunday to attend the inauguration party with her husband and children and tens of thousands of people from all over Brazil who had packed the Praça dos Três Poderes and the esplanades of the ministries. And they told us of the joy they shared: it was the end of a four-year nightmare. Suddenly, they were interrupted by someone who opened their cell phone and said: “look at what is happening in Brasilia”. We immediately got up from the table and sat down in front of the television. And we didn't leave there for many hours, until the last ones who resisted police pressure were removed from the stage. We had seen a coup attempt while it was taking place, a short week after the President-elect took office. Which aimed not only at him, but at the summits of all political power in the country, concomitantly attacked directly.

The space of this note does not allow me to present the origins and purposes of this frustrated coup and previous attempts to break democracy by the same actors, nor how it was managed to abort it. Even less the tensions experienced in the two months of the second round of Lula's inauguration, with attacks and threats, nor the many data already available on the complicities and omissions that made the invasion of the Palaces possible.

It would be important, however, to tell what happened the next day, Monday the 9th, not so televised, but extremely significant: there was almost automatically a huge reaction of repudiation of what happened in Brasília, from society and from Brazilian political institutions. Thousands of citizens held large street demonstrations in the country's capitals, convened by civil society movements; and, at the invitation of President Lula, a large meeting was held in a room in the Palace not reached by the predators, in which all those present assumed a solemn collective commitment to defend democracy. All government ministers, the governors of the country's 27 states, the Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, the President of the Supreme Court and her Ministers present in Brasilia participated in this meeting.

At its end, everyone participated in a highly symbolic gesture: they walked from the Palace to the Federal Supreme Court building, the one most affected by vandalism, on the other side of Praça dos Três Poderes, to show solidarity as a Power.

What could still happen remains quite worrying, even though a few days later opinion polls indicated that 93% of Brazilian men and women disapproved of what was done on January 8 in Brasília. Jair Bolsonaro divided the country, instilling hatred in a large part of the population, even hinting at a civil war. During his rule, the number of firearms purchased by civilians increased sevenfold. On the day of the inauguration, until the last minute it had not been decided whether, to be sworn in to Congress, Lula should travel in an open car or an armored car. It is certain, however, that it has become possible to build a great front for democracy, uniting the Three Powers of the Republic and civil society around the slogan Reconstruction and Union. May we succeed.[1]

*Chico Whitaker is an architect and social activist. He was councilor in São Paulo. He is currently a consultant to the Brazilian Commission for Justice and Peace.


[1] Article written in response to a request for information from the French Justice and Peace Commission.

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