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2 Brazilian security officials are accused of colluding with rioters

DWANE BROWN, HOST:

Authorities in Brazil have ordered the arrest of two security officials accused of colluding with rioters who attacked government buildings in the capital. Over the weekend, thousands of supporters of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro vandalized the Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices in Brasilia. They were spurred by false claims from the former president that his reelection loss was due to fraud. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Brazil's newly inaugurated president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, didn't mince words. Speaking to a group of governors at his heavily damaged presidential offices, he said keeping the government safe last Sunday was the job of the state police, and they failed to do so.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "The police in Brasilia was negligent. The Brasilia police's intelligence was also negligent," said a visibly angry Lula. He went on to accuse state officers of even colluding with the demonstrators.

More than a thousand people have been detained for participating in the attacks on Brazil's Supreme Court, Congress and presidential offices. Yesterday, hundreds were released for humanitarian reasons, while hundreds more were formally charged. Yesterday, the head of security in Brasilia was ordered arrested. Anderson Torres, a Bolsonaro ally, had already been fired right after the riots. The newly appointed head of security, Ricardo Capelli, says Torres deliberately sabotaged Brasilia's police force.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICARDO CAPPELLI: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: He told CNN Brazil that just after days on the job, Torres gutted the leadership and then quickly went on vacation to the U.S. In a tweet, Torres denied any wrongdoing. He called the accusations of collusion absurd.

Authorities say they've identified businessmen from around the country who helped finance the attacks, specifically chartering buses to bring rioters into Brasilia. At least 80 buses arrived in the capital last weekend, packed with Bolsonaro supporters. Natalia Viana is an investigative journalist who monitors social media and the right wing in Brazil. She says rioters openly discussed traveling en masse to the capital. State officials had to have seen the communications, she says.

NATALIA VIANA: It is impossible that they did not know, and this is why we are not talking only about omission or incompetence. This is negligence, and it may be criminal. They may have concurred on the acts that happened.

KAHN: She says organizers used coded messages urging people to come to Selma's party in the capital, a play on words for a military call to action, and that they were hoping five corns would attend. The word for corn in Portuguese is similar to the word for millions.

Meanwhile, at the vandalized buildings, workers continue trying to clean up the damage. At the presidential offices, nearly every first-floor window of this glass-encased building was smashed. High-pressure water guns are used to pry shards out of the peripheral stone pathways. President Lula's spokesperson, Jose Crispiniano, scoffs at the notion that the rioters dared to drape themselves in the flag and call themselves patriots.

JOSE CRISPINIANO: It was very irrational and very misguided in the sense that they were destroying Brazilian history and Brazilian symbols.

KAHN: One treasure, a mid-20th century desk used by the first president to work in Brasilia, was tossed out a third-story window. The damage caused by the rioters is still being tallied.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Brasilia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.