Bolsonaro should face ‘coup’ charges: Brazil congressional report

Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro greets anti-abortion campaigners during a protest in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, October 8, 2023.

Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro greets anti-abortion campaigners during a protest in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, October 8, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

A Brazilian congressional committee found on Tuesday former President Jair Bolsonaro should face charges of an attempted coup for his supporters' invasion of the Presidential palace, Supreme Court and legislative headquarters in January.

The committee investigating the January 8 riots in the capital Brasilia wrapped up nearly five months of drama-filled hearings with a final report recommending prosecutors also charge the far-right ex-President with attempting to overthrow the rule of law, political violence and criminal conspiracy.

The report does not legally bind the prosecutor general's office to act. But it is the latest in a raft of legal woes for Mr. Bolsonaro, 68, who is already under investigation for various allegations of corruption and abuse of office.

Mr. Bolsonaro — who was president between 2019 and 2022 — was also barred in June from running for election for eight years, over his unproven fraud allegations against Brazil's electronic voting system.

The January 8 riots deeply shook Brazil, as thousands of Bolsonaro supporters overwhelmed security and trashed the halls of power, calling on the military to oust President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The riots drew inevitable comparisons to the 2021 US Capitol invasion by supporters of Donald Trump, Mr. Bolsonaro's political role model.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who lost to veteran leftist Lula in a divisive election in October 2022, was in the United States at the time, having snubbed his arch-rival's inauguration one week before.

But the report by the joint lower house and Senate committee found Bolsonaro instigated his supporters' actions.

Before leaving office, the ex-President “used the apparatus of the state in any way he could to achieve his greatest aim: erode Brazil's institutions to the point of total destruction and remain in power,” said Senator Eliziane Gama, reading the report.

The more than 1,300-page report also called on prosecutors to charge military officers including Mr. Bolsonaro's ex-Defence Minister, General Paulo Sergio Nogueira de Oliveira, and the former Navy and Army commanders.

The riots were part of a “premeditated coup attempt” that aimed to “destabilize the government, ignite the country, and sow chaos and, if necessary, a civil war,” it said.

The committee is due to vote on Wednesday on adopting the report. Its passage is virtually certain, given that Mr. Lula's coalition holds a majority on the 32-member committee.

In a separate case on Tuesday, the Supreme Electoral Court acquitted Mr. Bolsonaro on charges of abuse of political power.

He has been accused of delivering an electoral speech from the Presidential palace during the 2022 campaign.

The seven judges considered that “it has not been proven that the transmission took place within the Planalto Palace, nor that the services of a sign language interpreter paid for by the state were used,” the court said on its website.

It also acquitted Mr. Bolsonaro's running mate Walter Braga Netto.

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