Brazil is bracing for its own version of the Jan. 6 “stop the steal” riot at the U.S. Capitol, inspired by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose predicted election defeat has made him as desperate as former U.S. President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro has called for his supporters to gather en masse on Tuesday, Brazil’s Independence Day.
More than 150 global opponents to the sitting Brazilian president—who recent polls show will lose by a landslide to former left-wing President Lula Inacio Lula da Silva in next year’s October election—released an open letter on Monday warning that Bolsonaro is plotting a military coup. Among those who signed the letter are the former prime minister of Spain Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis—both long-time foes of the right-wing leader.
The letter warned that Tuesday’s pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations have “been modeled on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on 6 January 2021,” spurred on by an increasingly desperate failing leader who has engaged in mass intimidation of public officials and “stoking fears of a coup d’état in the world’s third-largest democracy.”
Bolsonaro, an ardent fan of Trump, has already warned that the election slated for October 2022 is rigged. He attacked Brazil’s Supreme Court, which recently ruled in favor of an investigation into Bolsonaro’s claims that Brazil’s electronic voting system is susceptible to fraud—especially if former President Lula wins. The court is also investigating the president for potential breaches of the country’s free speech laws in his clampdown on the media and other entities.
Several local politicians have also warned that Brazil’s military police have been summoned to take part in the demonstrations, even though they are banned from participating in political protests.
On Monday evening, police started reinforcing the central mall in the capital city of Brasilia where Bolsonaro supporters are expected to gather, potentially marching on the Justice Ministry in protest. Bolsonaro is expected to deliver a fiery speech to rile them up. The president will later host what is being called Brazil’s largest ever political rally in San Paulo, which is not expected to adhere to COVID-19 protective measures.
Late last week Bolsonaro said Tuesday’s demonstrations would provide an “ultimatum” to the Supreme Court, in what reminds many world leaders of Trump’s speech ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
Lula, who often refers to his political rival as a “psychopath,” has called on his own supporters to forgo Tuesday’s demonstrations and join in anti-Bolsonaro protests scheduled for Sunday. He will give a speech to the nation over his social media channels that is expected to focus on the pandemic, which has ravaged Brazil thanks in part to Bolsonaro’s denial of how deadly it is.
“Instead of announcing solutions, he is calling people to confrontation… in acts against democracy,” Lula said, according to Reuters. He also accused the president of “sowing division, hatred, and violence.”