Lula slams far-right 'terrorism' as Brazil clears protest camps

Brazilian security forces cleared protest camps Monday and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned "acts of terrorism" after a far-right mob stormed the seat of power in the capital, in chaotic scenes that triggered global shock.

Hundreds of soldiers and police mobilized to dismantle an improvised camp outside the army's headquarters in Brasilia where some 3,000 supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro had set up tents -- used as a base for the sea of protesters who ran riot inside the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court for around four hours Sunday.

Lula, who took office on January 1 after a bitterly divisive election win over Bolsonaro, meanwhile returned to work in the pillaged presidential palace, where AFP reporters saw the wreckage that remained of the previous day's havoc: trashed artwork and offices, shattered windows and doors, broken glass strewn across the floor, and puddles of water left by the sprinkler system after rioters set fire to a rug.

Lula, the 77-year-old veteran leftist who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, joined the leaders of both houses of Congress and the chief justice of the Supreme Court in condemning what many called the South American country's version of the Capitol riots in Washington two years ago.

"The three powers of the republic, the defenders of democracy and the constitution, reject the terrorist acts and criminal, coup-mongering vandalism that occurred," they said in a joint statement.

Large contingents of riot police meanwhile deployed to lock down the capital's Three Powers Square, home to the iconic modernist buildings that serve as the headquarters of the three branches of government.

Around 1,500 people were arrested at the pro-Bolsonaro protest camp, officials said.

Many Brasilia residents were still in shock as they returned to their normal workday routines.

"People have the right to express their opinions, but not destroy our national heritage," 43-year-old resident Ionar Bispo told AFP.

- 'Traces of Trumpism' -

Condemnation continued to pour in from around the world, with Pope Francis criticizing the unrest as a sign of "weakening of democracy" in the Americas.

In a joint statement ahead of summit talks in Mexico City, US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attacks and said they "stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions."

Many drew the inevitable comparison to January 6, 2021, when supporters of then-US president Donald Trump invaded the Capitol in a violent, failed bid to stop Congress from certifying his election loss.

Spain's foreign minister said the attacks in Brasilia bore "traces of Trumpism," and echoed condemnation from the United Nations and European Union.

In a rare moment of unity with Western powers, even Russia joined in, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters, "we condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the instigators of the riots."

Bolsonaro, who left Brazil for the US state of Florida -- where Trump resides -- on the second-to-last day of his term, condemned "pillaging and invasions of public buildings" in a tweet Sunday night.

But the politician dubbed the "Tropical Trump" rejected Lula's claim he incited the attacks, and defended the right to "peaceful protests."

- Investigation begins -

Lula, who was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting a flood-hit region when the riot started, signed a decree declaring a federal intervention in Brasilia, giving his government special powers over the local police force to restore law and order in the capital.

His government vowed to find and arrest those who planned and financed the attacks.

As the violence unfolded, Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha fired the capital's public security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro's justice minister.

Rocha was in turn suspended from his post for 90 days by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

The attorney general's office said it had asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres "and all other public officials responsible for acts and omissions" leading to the unrest.

It also asked the high court to authorize the use of "all public security forces" to take back federal buildings and disperse anti-government protests nationwide.

Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside army bases calling for a military intervention to stop Lula from taking power since his election win.

Lula narrowly won the October 30 runoff election by a score of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.

Bolsonaro has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil's courts and electoral authorities.

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