Brazil’s government acts against Bolsonaro backers, new protest fizzles

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Brazilian federal prosecutors on Wednesday requested the investigation of three congressional allies of former President Jair Bolsonaro for allegedly inciting the worst attack on the country’s democratic institutions in decades.

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The call for the probe came as the government of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had prepared stepped-up security measures to face renewed protests on Wednesday, but mass demonstrations proposed on pro-Bolsonaro social media to “retake power” failed to materialize.

Police said 1,159 people arrested in connection with Sunday’s storming of government building in Brasilia remained in custody. Some 684 others were released for “humanitarian reasons” after detention, including elderly people, those with health issues and parents of young children, police said.

Organizers of the anti-government demonstrations have called in recent weeks on social media to block roads and refineries, bring down power lines and cause enough chaos to prompt a military coup to overturn the election that Bolsonaro lost to Lula last October.

Ricardo Cappelli, the federal official in charge of public security in the capital appointed in the wake of Sunday’s riots, said all security forces had been mobilized to prevent a repeat of the rampage, when thousands of Bolsonaro supporters staged protests in Brasilia, ransacking the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential offices.

“Those who lost the election and are trying to create a crisis will not succeed,” Cappelli told a news conference.

Lula said on Wednesday that those involved in Sunday’s attack would have the right to defend themselves, but any proven wrongdoing will be punished. He also criticized Bolsonaro for not accepting the election result and called those who stormed and vandalized public buildings in the capital “crazy.”

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes issued a ban on roadblocks that have been used by anti-government demonstrators to create economic disruption and ordered local authorities to prevent the storming of public buildings.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Moraes’s arrest warrant for Anderson Torres, Bolsonaro's former justice minister who oversaw public security in Brasilia during Sunday’s riots.

Moraes accused Torres of “negligence and connivance.”

Torres was fired for his failure to stop Sunday’s chaos and his arrest warrant alleged complicity with the demonstrators, who marched to the center of the capital under police escort. Torres said on Tuesday he would return to Brazil to face charges from Florida, where he has been on vacation since before the riots.

Moraes also ordered the arrest of Fabio Augusto Vieira, the head of Brasilia’s military police, one of a number of officials responsible for protecting government buildings in Brasilia.

Vieira hasn’t made any public comment since the order was issued.

The court also upheld the 90-day removal from office of former Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, Torres’s former boss.

Prosecutors have also sought to freeze Bolsonaro’s assets.

Despite the threat of new protests, Brazilian financial markets closed higher, with Brazil’s benchmark stock index Bovespa rising 1.5 percent.

“So far, despite the polarized environment, evidenced by a violent invasion of Brazil's state buildings on January 8, we see reasons to believe that governability will not be an immediate issue,” economists at JPMorgan said.

Bolsonaro, who left Brazil 48 hours before his term ended at the end of December and has yet to concede defeat to Lula, told media from Florida that he planned to return to Brazil earlier than planned for medical reasons, without specifying a date.

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