For many Brazilians, Sunday afternoon was the arrival of such a moment, when Bolsonaro supporters laid siege to the three pillars of the federal government — the presidential palace, the supreme court and the congress — bringing democracy here to a sudden standstill. The scenes of smoke and violence were at once both shocking and predictable, the tragic realization of a prophecy Bolsonaro has repeatedly uttered to mobilize his base and terrify his adversaries.
“Bolsonaro and the Bolsonaro family have for years talked about attacking the supreme court,” said Esther Solano, a sociologist at the Federal University of São Paulo who studies the president’s supporters. “Then, over the last year, they have said they wouldn’t respect the electoral results. And in recent months, the insurrectionist rhetoric of Bolsonaro and his family gathered even more force.”
Bolsonaro has said little publicly since his loss to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in October. He declined to concede, or to discourage the supporters who have camped outside military installations calling for a coup to keep him in power.
He did ask protesters to stop disrupting commerce by blocking roads, and he condemned violence aimed at overturning the election result. But in an echo of Trump, he skipped Lula’s inauguration on Jan. 1, absconding instead to Florida to stay at the Orlando mansion of an MMA fighter.
In a teary farewell before his departure, he called the election result unfair. Now in his sudden absence, his most radical supporters have carried out his rhetoric to its logical, if violent, conclusion.
“This was expected,” said Alexandre Bandeira, a political analyst in Brasília. “This was a ticking time bomb. Bolsonaro’s supporters have decided to repeat the lamentable image for the entire world of the Capitol invasion.”