On Feb. 9, 2023, the OU Center for the Americas, in collaboration with the Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy Systems, the Latin America Sustainability Initiative and the Center for Brazil Studies, hosted a panel discussion for more than 125 attendees titled, “Recent Political Protests in Peru and Brazil,” that explored the history and complex factors that led to the recent political crises in the two countries.
In Jan. 2023, protestors attacked government buildings in Brazil with the intent to topple the legitimately-elected government. Angry about the presidential election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, hundreds of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the far right incumbent, broke into and defaced Brazil’s congressional building, supreme court and presidential palace.
“We need to distinguish between political protests and what we observed in Brazil on January 8th,” Fabio Costa Morais de Sa e Silva, Ph.D., co-director for the Center for Brazil Studies and assistant professor in the College of International Studies, said. “The attacks on government buildings and the institutions they represent were in fact an attempted coup d'état.”
These events were not spontaneous, however. Institutional distrust of the government and political radicalization had been building in Brazil since the mid-2010s.
“This was not an overnight development. We had the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the arrest of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2018. This led to the election victory of Jair Bolsonaro, anger against the Brazilian Supreme Court and the systematic distrust of election integrity,” Costa said.
These events were caused, in part, because of large misinformation and disinformation campaigns that are similar to those that led to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Just like in the U.S., where we had an invasion of the Capitol based on the big lie that the elections had been defrauded, the same thing happened in Brazil,” Costa said. “Some of the operatives behind the misinformation machine that Bolsonaro operated were the same as in the U.S.”