Home » Why Brazilian Seattleites Say It’s Important to Take Notice of Threats to Democracy Worldwide

Why Brazilian Seattleites Say It’s Important to Take Notice of Threats to Democracy Worldwide

Supporters of Bolsonaro stormed Brazilian government buildings in the aftermath of the country’s presidential election, claiming the results were rigged.

SEATTLE — Carnival is underway in Brazil, the largest country in South America; this year is the first time the celebration has returned to normal since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, amid celebration there is uncertainty. An investigation continues into former President Jair Bolsonaro and his role in a destructive rally in Brasilia, the country’s capital, last month.

On Jan. 8, 2023, supporters of Bolsonaro who claimed election results were rigged, marched into several government buildings demanding a government takeover of Brazil’s government. Protestors shattered windows, damaged priceless artwork and vandalized walls.

“[It was] a disrespect on all potential levels,” said Ana Cecilia Fazoli a Brazilian from Sao Paulo who has lived in Seattle for 10 years. She spoke with KING 5’s Jessica Janner Castro at the Brazilian coffee shop chain Kitanda, which originated in Seattle. 

“First, I was in disbelief. After seeing what happened in the United States, I couldn’t believe it was my country,” Fazoli said. “After I absorbed what was happening, I was very disappointed.”

There are about 15,000 Brazilians living in the greater Seattle area, according to the nonprofit Brazil Center.

“I’m pretty confident that Brazilians here in Seattle have the same feeling what the majority of Brazilians in Brazil have: that was not okay,” said Eduardo Mendonca, a local Brazilian musician who has lived in Seattle for more than two decades. 

The attacks by protestors on government buildings last month have been compared to the riots on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington D-C.  Similar to the 2020 election in the United States, the recent elections in Brazil were extremely close. The current President, Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, won by a narrow margin, with 50.9% of votes. Former president Bolsonaro received 49.1%.

However, there are some notable differences between what happened in the U.S. and Brazil. Unlike in D-C, Congress was in recess in Brasilia, so the government buildings were empty. Also, former President Bolsonaro was nowhere nearby – in fact, he was in Florida. Bolsonaro left Brazil prior to his rival’s inauguration.

Bolsonaro remains in the U.S. The Associated Press has reported that Bolsonaro has applied for a 6-month visa extension to remain in the United States. It’s unclear when he will return to Brazil.

Meanwhile, several U.S. lawmakers have called for President Biden to oust Bolsonaro. Shortly after the riot in Brazil, more than 40 House Democrats signed a letter, including Washington State Representative Pramila Jayapal, calling on Biden to take action. 

The letter says in part, “We know firsthand the impact—both immediate and long-term— when government officials subvert democratic norms, spread misinformation, and foment violent extremism.” 

The letter goes on to say, “We must not allow Mr. Bolsonaro or any other former Brazilian officials to take refuge in the United States to escape justice for any crimes.”

More than 1,000 protesters were arrested following the riots in Brasilia. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro has denied any involvement. Still, Brazil’s supreme court has named him in a criminal investigation as potentially responsible for the chaos that ensued at the capital complex.

Local Brazilians told KING 5 News, the events in Brazil are an example for the entire world.

“We should care about what’s happening around the world, and remember that we should be careful with the way we treat politics and that we respect democracy,” said Fazoli.

On February 10, 2023, current Brazilian President Lula visited the White House to talk with President Biden. The two leaders vowed to protect democracy in both countries and around the world.

Source : King 5