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Jan. 8 in Brasilia is not Jan. 6 in Washington — here are the differences

Don’t rush to make easy analyzes in the heat of the battle. Jan. 8, 2023, in Brasilia was not the same as Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. There are profound differences between times, places and figureheads of each radical protest.

Let’s start at the beginning. In Brazil, the constitutional and democratic transfer of power was not at stake. No. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) had a peaceful, safe, and orderly inauguration. Without major incidents to report. The new head of state has been in power for a week, celebrating, approving dozens of decrees and organizing a large cabinet of 37 ministers.

The events in Brasilia were a symbolic protest, vicious — but not vital. The building protestors targeted — seats of legislative, judicial and executive branches of power — were empty. The lives of lawmakers or the vice president of Brazil were never at risk. Nevertheless, crimes of a different nature were committed, which will have to be investigated and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

In Brasilia, there was no apparent high-level leader encouraging the violent rioters. There was no previous speech announcing and signaling the assault on the three facilities of the branches of power. This is one of the main contrasts between the events that occurred on Jan. 6 in the U.S. and Jan. 8 in Brazil. The leadership and authority of the person who exercises it makes a difference.

Former President Jair Bolsonaro, who was not in the country, condemned the assault on public facilities. “Peaceful demonstrations, by law, are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings such as those that occurred today, as well as those attack by the left-wing groups in 2013 and 2017, are outside the law,” Bolsonaro said on his Twitter account.

Armed forces reportedly did the job. They acted in a timely manner, arresting 1,500 people in less than 24 hours. This says a lot about Brazil’s democracy and above all about the maturity and strength of its institutions.

The 39th president of Brazil governs a divided country, with wounds that must be healed. It is not enough to promote a multicolored cabinet, dialogue and consensus are needed. Lula began his term by saying that “the obscurantists” and “genocides of the pandemic” would not go unpunished. Feeding the germ of confrontation.

He issued more than 50 presidential decrees on his first day in office, including decrees to dismantle the decisions of the previous administration. There was no dialogue, nor consensus — just executive orders. This does not help to build democracy in a country where almost half of the population thinks differently.

Opportunistic dictators expressed strong support for Brazil. Faced with the violent demonstrations in Brazil, the dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela made huge calls to respect democracy and the rule of law. Lula has not recognized these regimes as dictatorships and, on the contrary, they were all invited to his inauguration. This doesn’t help either.

More distractions and less efficiency. This assault on democratic institutions, will also have a collateral effect on the president’s agenda. Time, resources and energy that could have been devoted to the economic and environmental sectors, are now being drained to other but no less important issues. The results of the first 100 days could be an imminent casualty of the new events.

If the protests on Jan. 6 in Washington and Jan. 8 in Brasilia demonstrated anything, it is that democracy is a work in progress. The size of the country or the longevity of the institutions do not make a difference. Leadership, hate speech and political revenge divide people and erode the rule of law. Brazil has managed to overcome this test, which is undoubtedly the first, but not the last.

Arturo McFields Yescas is former ambassador of Nicaragua to the Organization of American States. Follow him on Twitter: @ArturoMcfields

Tags Brazil Brazil protests Democracy Donald Trump Jair Bolsonaro Jair Bolsonaro Jan. 6 Capitol attack Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Politics

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