Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro is to be investigated for allegedly encouraging protests that ended with his supporters storming several government buildings.
In scenes reminiscent of the US Capitol riots almost two years to the day, thousands of rioters invaded the country’s supreme court, presidential palace, congress, and ministries’ building last Sunday.
Around 1,500 people were arrested, and President Lula da Silva vowed that anyone involved would be found and punished with the “full force of the law”.
Brazil‘s supreme court has now agreed to open an investigation into whether the ugly scenes were incited by the president’s predecessor, much as US politicians held an inquiry into Donald Trump’s role in those in Washington.
Agreeing to a request by federal prosecutors, justice Alexandre de Moraes stated: “Public figures who continue to cowardly conspire against democracy trying to establish a state of exception will be held accountable.”
Prosecutors say Mr Bolsonaro, who is in the US for medical treatment, will be investigated for possible “instigation and intellectual authorship of the anti-democratic acts that resulted in vandalism and violence”.
Who are the protesters that stormed Brazil’s capital?
Bolsonaro’s bid to discredit election
It comes after the 67-year-old, a far-right former military officer who has been compared to Mr Trump, posted a Facebook video claiming that Lula’s narrow victory in October’s election was not legitimate.
Mr Bolsonaro said he had not been voted in, but rather chosen by the supreme court.
Prosecutors argued that, although Mr Bolsonaro posted the video after the riot, its content was sufficient to justify investigating his conduct beforehand.
Leftist Lula, 77, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2011, won the election with 50.9% of the votes.
Mr Bolsonaro subsequently left the country and did not attend his rival’s inauguration, and has not yet returned.
His former justice minister, Anderson Torres, also went to the US, but has said he will return to face claims that he allowed the protests to take place.
Both men are currently in Florida and no extradition requests have been made.
Brazil faces reality that democracy can be fragile
Bolsonaro’s team ‘fear he will be banned from running again’
Reuters news agency reports that Mr Bolsonaro’s party, the Liberal Party, is beefing up its legal team to prepare to defend him over the riots and other allegations.
Mr Bolsonaro faces several investigations for anti-democratic statements he made while president, including several unfounded claims that the electoral system was open to fraud.
Party officials reportedly fear that while he may not be arrested, he could be barred from running for the presidency.
Brazil’s next election is scheduled for 2026.