Brazilian authorities target riot financiers' assets to pay for damage
BRASÍLIA - Authorities in Brazil asked a federal court on Thursday to block $1.3 million in assets belonging to 52 people and seven companies alleged to have helped fund the buses that carried supporters of defeated former president Jair Bolsonaro to the riot in the capital on Sunday.
The companies listed by Brazil's solicitor general are mostly transportation firms and small businesses based in the southern and southeastern regions of the country, where support for the far-right former president is strong. The list included a small agribusiness union and a small timber company, also from the south.
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The blocked assets would be used to compensate the government for the massive damage caused by rioters who stormed, occupied and vandalized Brazil's congress, presidential palace and supreme court, the solicitor general's office said in a court filing.
Authorities are trying to piece together how the most brazen attack on Brazil's young democracy was planned, to probe the security lapses that enabled it and to identify who organized and financed it.
More pro-Bolsonaro protests, planned for Wednesday evening in cities across the country, flopped in the face of increased security. The riot Sunday was deeply unpopular in Brazil, polls show.
Still, Bolsonaro supporters, fueled by disinformation and conspiracy theory, remain strident in their unfounded belief that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stole the October election. Lula has tried to project some normalcy ahead of a legislative session in February, installing cabinet ministers and unveiling new economic measures.
But presiding over this deeply divided nation will be a challenge.
"This will demand from Lula that a lot of attention and time is dedicated to solving this specific issue instead of solving the economic and social issues he promised he will try to solve during the campaign last year," said Wallace Corbo, a professor of constitutional law at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro.
"This is going to take time. This is going to take resources," Corbo said. "Lula has shown over the past 48 hours that . . . he's trying to move forward with the government, but the problem has not disappeared. The problem's still there. The government will have to face it."
Lula has publicly accused members of the police forces of colluding with the rioters. On Thursday, he said he believed hardcore bolsonaristas among the military police and staff inside the presidential palace helped the rioters break in.
"I am convinced that the door of the Planalto Palace was opened for people to enter because the door was not broken," he told reporters, according to Brazilian media. "It means that someone facilitated their entry here. We are going to investigate very calmly and see what really happened."
Officials in his government say they had a "sense" that the gathering Sunday, widely promoted on social media, could devolve into violence. But they say they trusted guarantees from local officials that they had the situation under control.
Police have detained more than 1,800 people in connection with the riot and have arrested 1,159 of them. Nearly 700, including the elderly, mothers with children and people experiencing homelessness, have been released for "humanitarian" reasons.
Several politicians and security officials have been accused of negligence or complicity.
The supreme court on Wednesday upheld the 90-day suspension of the governor the federal district of Brasília and orders to arrest Anderson Torres, the former public security chief for the federal district of Brasília, and Col. Fábio Augusto Vieira, who commanded the military police here.
The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported Thursday that federal police had found a three-page draft decree in Torres's home to overturn the election on Bolsonaro's behalf. Police told The Washington Post they could not comment on ongoing investigations.
Torres, who was Bolsonaro's justice minister, said people in his position come across all kinds of proposals and must discern what "effectively contributes to Brazil." In a series of tweets, he said his conscience was clear and the justice ministry was among the first to deliver reports for the transition from Bolsonaro to Lula.
"In my house there was a pile of documents to be discarded, where the material described in the article was most likely found," he said. "Everything would be taken to be shredded in due course. . . . The document was taken when I was not there and leaked out of context, helping to fuel fallacious narratives against me."
Bolsonaro, who for years sowed mistrust in Brazil's democratic institutions and still hasn't conceded his election loss, is in Florida. He skipped Lula's inauguration.
The supreme court was poised Thursday to uphold an order that has temporarily suspended the right to protest in the country amid fears that rioters were planning new assaults.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes said Wednesday that any demonstrators who obstruct roads or enter public buildings will face arrest and fines of up to $3,800. He also ordered the messaging app Telegram to block accounts that had called for the "Mega National Demonstration to Retake Power."
Moraes' ruling was upheld by a majority of the justices, Globo reported, but debates were continuing.
The federal public prosecutors' office requested that the court investigate three lawmakers for allegedly "inciting" the "acts of violence and vandalism" on Sunday, and to probe two former military police leaders to determine whether there was a "failure or omission" to contain the rioters.
The office cited social media posts from the lawmakers that it alleges promoted or incited the riot. The posts include a video Sunday from lawmaker Clarissa Tércio.
"We just took power," Tércio allegedly says in the video. "We are inside Congress. . . . This will go down in history, the history of my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren."
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