BRASÍLIA: For 10 weeks, supporters of ousted far-right president Jair Bolsonaro had camped outside the Brazilian army headquarters, demanding that the army cancel the October presidential election. And over the past 10 weeks, protesters have met little resistance from the government.
Then on Sunday, scores of camp residents left their tents in Brasilia, the nation’s capital, drove a few miles away and, joining hundreds of other protesters, stormed Congressthem Supreme Court and presidential offices.
Monday morning, the authorities were sweeping the camp. They took down tents, tore down banners and arrested 1,200 protesters, taking them to buses for questioning.
Why an encampment demanding a military coup was allowed to stretch for more than 70 days was part of a broader set of questions officials grappled with on Monday, including:
Why were protests allowed to get so close to Brazil‘s halls of power? And why had the security forces been so few in number, allowing crowds of protesters to easily rush into official government buildings?
Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino said various security agencies met on Friday to plan for possible violence during protests planned for Sunday. But, he said, the security strategy devised at that meeting, including keeping protesters away from key government buildings, was at least partly abandoned on Sunday and there were far fewer security forces officers. order than expected.
“The police contingent was not what was agreed upon,” he said, adding that it was unclear why plans had changed.
Some members of the federal government blamed the governor of Brasilia, Ibaneis Rochaand his deputies, suggesting they had been either negligent or complicit in the security forces’ understaffing around the protests.
Late Sunday, Alexander of Moraesa Supreme Court justice, suspended Rocha from his governorship for at least 90 days.
Whatever the security lapses, Sunday’s riot shockingly laid bare the central challenge facing Brazil’s democracy. Unlike other attempts to overthrow governments throughout Latin American history, Sunday’s attacks were not ordered by a single strong leader or an army determined to seize power, but rather were fueled by a more insidious and deeply rooted threat: the mass illusion.
Millions of Brazilians seem convinced the October presidential election was rigged against Bolsonaro, despite audits and expert analysis finding no such thing.

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