Brazil capital’s security boosted, 39 charged over uprising

Brazilian authorities moved Monday to upgrade security at government buildings ransacked by rioters and formally charged 39 people with crimes against the state in the violent January 8 uprising.

District authorities of the capital Brasilia said they would more than double the security deployment at the Esplanade of Ministries and Three Powers Square where the government presence is concentrated.

Eight days earlier, thousands forced their way into the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court, smashing windows and furniture, destroying priceless works of art, and leaving behind graffiti messages calling for a military coup.

Acting district governor Celina Leao told reporters Monday a military police battalion in charge of security would be boosted from 248 to 500 members on a permanent basis for “maximum peace of mind.”

Leao is standing in for Ibaneis Rocha, who is the target of an investigation into possible links to the riots and was relieved of his duties for 90 days.

Brazil’s deputy justice minister Ricardo Cappelli told the same press conference that investigators were seeking to determine whether there were any “professionals” among the rioters, who clamored for a military coup.

Delegated by the executive to take charge of security in Brasilia after the violence, Cappelli cited witness testimony of “men… with knowledge of the terrain, combat tactics” among the demonstrators.

Leftist new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his justice minister have both said the unrest could not likely have happened without inside help, including from the security forces.

The district of Brasilia has been under federal control by presidential decree since the riots by followers of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro.

Forty-four military police were injured while defending the buildings from rioters, said Cappelli.

The full extent of the damage to national heritage is still being determined.

 ‘Anti-democratic acts’

The public prosecutor’s office brought formal charges against 39 people — among the 1,200 or so still under arrest for the rioting — for armed criminal association, damage to patrimony, violence against the democratic state, and coup mongering.

“Our concern is that these acts are never repeated again,” Attorney General Augusto Aras said.

Aras also ordered a freeze on 40 million reales (US$7.7 million) of assets belonging to the 39 individuals.

Bolsonaro, who is in the United States, has denied any connection to the uprising.

The ex-leader, who for years had sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s internationally-hailed election system, has been included in an investigation into the origins of the riots.

Bolsonaro, who offered muted condemnation of the uprising hours after it occurred, appeared in a video released Monday by the Metropoles news website speaking to supporters near his Orlando holiday lodging.

“I regret what happened the 8th, it was something incredible,” Bolsonaro is heard to say.

Bolsonaro’s former justice minister Anderson Torres — who was in charge of security in Brasilia when the uprising happened — was arrested on Saturday.

According to the Federal Police, 1,159 people out of more than 2,000 suspected rioters initially detained remained under arrest.

The public prosecutor’s office meanwhile said more than 800 have made initial custody hearing appearances.

The Federal Police (PF), for its part, said a special operation dubbed Ulysses yielded the arrest of one person Monday.

The goal of Ulysses was to track down “persons investigated for anti-democratic acts after the second round of presidential elections” in October “as well as the acts that took place on January 8.”

One of three arrest warrants was executed successfully, the PF said in statement without providing details.

Two individuals remain at large.

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