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Lula slams far-right ‘terrorism’ as Brazil clears protest camps

Photo: MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

January 9th | By AFP | Ramon Sahmkow |

Brazilian security forces cleared protest camps Monday and arrested 1,500 people as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned “acts of terrorism” after a far-right mob stormed the seat of power, unleashing chaos on the capital.

Hundreds of soldiers and police mobilized to dismantle an improvised camp outside the army’s headquarters in Brasilia, where some 3,000 supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro had set up tents — used as a base for the sea of protesters who ran riot inside the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court for around four hours Sunday.

Lula, who took office on January 1 after a bitterly divisive election win over Bolsonaro, returned to work in the pillaged presidential palace, where AFP reporters saw the wreckage that remained of the previous day’s havoc: trashed artwork and offices, shattered windows and doors, broken glass strewn across the floor, and furniture dragged into a reflecting pool.

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Lula, the 77-year-old veteran leftist who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, met with the leaders of both houses of Congress and the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and joined them in condemning what many called the South American country’s version of the Capitol riots in Washington two years ago.

“The three powers of the republic, the defenders of democracy and the constitution, reject the terrorist acts and criminal, coup-mongering vandalism that occurred,” they said in a joint statement.

Bolsonaro, who narrowly lost the October elections, was meanwhile hospitalized with abdominal pains, his wife said. 

Media reports said the ex-president was admitted to hospital in Orlando, Florida, where the politician dubbed the “Tropical Trump” traveled on the second-to-last day of his term — snubbing Lula’s inauguration, in a break with tradition.

It was the latest in a series of health problems stemming from a stabbing attack that nearly claimed Bolsonaro’s life during his winning 2018 presidential campaign.

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Bolsonaro, 67, took to Twitter Sunday night to condemn the “pillaging” in Brasilia, but rejected Lula’s claim he incited the attacks, and defended the right to “peaceful protests.”

‘Traces of Trumpism’

Large contingents of riot police deployed to lock down the capital’s Three Powers Square, home to the iconic modernist buildings that serve as the headquarters of the three branches of government.

Many Brasilia residents were still in shock as they returned to their normal workday routines.

“People have the right to express their opinions, but not destroy our national heritage,” 43-year-old resident Ionar Bispo told AFP.

Condemnation continued to pour in from around the world, with Pope Francis criticizing the unrest as a sign of “weakening of democracy” in the Americas.

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In a joint statement ahead of summit talks in Mexico City, US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attacks and said they “stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions.”

Many drew the inevitable comparison to January 6, 2021, when supporters of then-US president Donald Trump invaded the Capitol in a violent, failed bid to stop Congress from certifying his election loss.

Spain’s foreign minister said the attacks in Brasilia bore “traces of Trumpism,” and echoed condemnation from the United Nations and European Union.

But Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino said there were “two key differences” between the attacks on Brasilia and Washington: “we had zero deaths, and more people were arrested.”

Investigation begins 

Lula, who was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting a flood-hit region when the riot started, signed a decree Sunday declaring a federal intervention in Brasilia, giving his government special powers over the local police force to restore law and order in the capital.

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His government vowed to find and arrest those who planned and financed the attacks.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes suspended Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, a Bolsonaro ally, from his post for 90 days, on grounds of “criminal negligence.”

The ruling came just after Rocha himself fired the capital’s public security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

The attorney general’s office said it had asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres “and all other public officials responsible for acts and omissions” leading to the unrest.

Moraes also ordered the security forces to disperse anti-government protests outside military bases nationwide.

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Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside army barracks calling for a military intervention to keep Lula from power since his election win.

Following the ruling, soldiers and police broke up camps in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as Brasilia.

Lula narrowly won the October 30 runoff election by a score of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.

Bolsonaro has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil’s courts and electoral authorities.

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International

Stoltenberg calls on the NATO bloc to “urgently” offer anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on the member states of the bloc to offer Ukraine anti-aircraft defense systems or financial support and lamented that “every delay costs lives and damage” in the face of the Russian invasion.

“We are working with all our allies and asking them to provide air defense systems such as the Samp/T or others,” he assured the media upon his arrival at the summit of foreign ministers of the G7 on the Italian island of Capri (south), when asked if other countries, in addition to Germany, could offer ‘Patriots’ to Kiev.

Stoltenberg encouraged the bloc’s allies who cannot provide anti-aircraft systems to the Ukrainian resistance to give it financial support.

In this sense, he stressed that the Netherlands has confirmed a package of 4 billion euros in additional military aid for Kiev, while Denmark has announced a new remittance.

And he celebrated as “an encouraging sign” Washington’s decision, after months of delays, to discuss the approval of other funds for $61 billion, with the commitment of US President Joe Biden to ratify it immediately.

NATO, he said, has given 99% of the aid to Ukraine but if it stops doing so “they will not be able to defend the country.”

“That’s why we have to do more and that’s why we’re here,” said the leader of the Atlantic Alliance, who will meet tomorrow with the Ukrainian president, Volodymir Zelenski.

In his opinion, accelerating aid to Ukraine is “urgent” because “every day delays cost deaths and damage” in that country in the face of a Russia that puts pressure on the defensive lines.

Stoltenberg finally promised “maximum surveillance” in NATO countries against Russian espionage, after the recent arrest in Germany of two men on suspicion of espionage under the orders of Moscow.

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International

The US announces new sanctions against Iran for the attack on Israel

U.S. President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Iran, directed against its Revolutionary Guard and the Ministry of Defense, for the attack on Israel.

Through a statement signed by the spokesman of the State Department, Matthew Miller, the US Government explained that it is also targeting the unmanned aerial vehicle program, the steel industry and the automobile companies of Iran.

“In response to Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel, the United States is taking radical measures against several actors involved in Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle program, suppliers and customers of one of Iran’s largest steel producers and Iranian automotive companies with connections to the United States,” the statement said.

The designated entities are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Defense and Logistics of the Armed Forces (MODAFL).

In total, the Treasury Department imposes sanctions on 16 people and two entities that allow the production and testing of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as the proliferation of actors working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, its unmanned aerial production division, Kimia Part Sivan Company, and other Iranian manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicle engines.

The Treasury also sanctions five companies that supply component materials for steel production to the Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC) of Iran, an entity sanctioned by the United States, or that buy finished steel products from the KSC.

In addition, the Treasury sanctions the Iranian car manufacturer Bahman Group and three of its subsidiaries, which have continued to materially support the IRGC and other sanctioned entities.

Finally, the Department of Commerce imposes new controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies such as basic commercial-grade microelectronics.

“We will continue to work with our allies and partners to use the full range of tools at our disposal to address income flows and disrupt the networks that support Iran’s reckless proliferation of weapons that destabilize the Middle East and beyond,” Miller said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said last Tuesday that the United States and its partners were coordinating a new round of sanctions against Iran for the attack on Israel, the first launched by Tehran directly against Israeli territory.

Several countries had previously designated the Revolutionary Guard, a branch of the Armed Forces of Iran created after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, as a terrorist group.

In 2019, the United States included the Revolutionary Guard on the blacklist of terrorist groups, while the Government of Canada already said in January of this year that it was studying ways to include the Revolutionary Guard on its list of terrorist organizations.

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International

Argentina asks to be a “global partner” of NATO

Argentina requested to be a “global partner” of NATO in the framework of a meeting held this Thursday by its Minister of Defense, Luis Petri, and the deputy secretary general of the multilateral organization, Mircea Geoana, official sources reported.

As published by the holder of the portfolio on social network X and disseminated his ministry, Petri presented “the letter of intent that expresses Argentina’s request to become a global partner of this organization.”

“We will continue to work on recovering links that allow us to modernize and train our forces to the NATO standard,” concluded the Argentine Minister of Defense.

Petri accompanied his publication with several photographs – including that of the delivery of the official letter – of his meeting with Geoana in Brussels, where the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is located.

Argentina’s rapprochement with NATO is linked to the new foreign policy developed by the Government of the ultraliberal Javier Milei, which has as references the United States and Israel.

In addition to the recent visit to Argentina of the commander of the Southern Command of the United States, Army General Laura Richardson, with a vocation to expand collaboration in defense, the South American country is clearly aligned with Israel both in the war in the Gaza Strip against the armed wing of Hamas and in the recent crisis unleashed with Iran.

Petri is this week in Europe, where on Monday he signed an agreement for the purchase of 24 used F-16 fighter planes from the Danish Army.

Milei was going to travel to Denmark to meet with the Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, and celebrate the signing of the agreement, but suspended the visit following Iran’s attack on Israel and returned from the United States – where he had traveled to receive a tribute from a Jewish organization – to organize a “crisis committee” in Buenos Aires.

Argentina keeps in its memory the memory of two serious attacks against the interests of the Jewish community: in 1992 against the Embassy of Israel; and in 1994 against the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). Both left more than 100 dead and hundreds of injured.

As its official website shows, NATO has 32 full members. Born after World War II (1939-1945), twelve countries signed their accession in 1949: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the United States, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

They were joined, in various expansions, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Finland and Sweden – the last two incorporations, in 2023 and 2024, respectively, against the background of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

In addition, it has several allies qualified as global partners, the same status that Argentina now intends: Australia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Colombia, the only country in Latin America, admitted in 2017.

Undoubtedly, an important aspect that could generate some internal conflict is the diplomatic dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands between the United Kingdom – one of the founding members of NATO – and Argentina, which caused a war in 1982.

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