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The ex-president's supporters have protested since election results were revealed


Oliver Stuenkel is a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil. He joins us now from Sao Paulo. Welcome.

OLIVER STUENKEL: Thank you, Leila. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So as we heard from our correspondent, Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting the election results since officials announced his loss. They've been camped out for months. In your view, was this attack a surprise?

STUENKEL: Actually, not at all. In fact, for the past two years since attackers invaded the Capitol in Washington, analysts have been saying that something similar could happen in Brazil. And at the time when January 6 happened, Bolsonaro's son actually publicly came out rooting for the invaders and even said that if they had organized better, they could have achieved most of their aims. Bolsonaro has also not recognized initially the legitimacy of the Biden administration, has shared a lot of views and ideas of Donald Trump about, you know, that the election was supposedly rigged.

So in a way, there are so many parallels between the two leaders that it was fairly obvious that something like, you know, a January 6 scenario could happen in Brazil. What is most surprising to me is that security forces have done almost nothing to stop the invaders, because differently from the U.S. scenario, where police was genuinely surprised because this had never happened before, there were a lot of people saying, we need to be careful. There's thousands of pro-Bolsonaro supporters asking for a military coup. And they're in the capital. They've been in the capital for weeks. They may end up doing the same.

FADEL: So these attacks were directly inspired by what happened here in D.C.?

STUENKEL: Well, I would certainly think so, because this has, you know, never happened in Brazil before. And I think that when Bolsonaro, until recently, looked towards the United States, I mean, sort of the Trump post-election strategy has been quite successful because, you know, he's still the leader of the opposition. He could still be the presidential candidate next year. He's still got lots of support in the Republican Party. So I think, to some extent, Bolsonaro is certainly looking towards a similar strategy. I would say it's, you know, very likely that this is largely inspired by events in Washington two years ago.

FADEL: How else may that relationship between Bolsonaro and Trump affect politics in Brazil?

STUENKEL: I think, looking forward, Brazil will face a similar issue to what we're seeing in the United States, which is that part of the electorate will not recognize the legitimacy of the Lula government. There's also been an increase in the amount of weapons that are actually available in Brazil. Bolsonaro has been loosening gun laws quite significantly. So there's a lot of concern about, you know, armed political violence of the type that we've seen in Brasilia. Now this could occur elsewhere in the country. So I think this has the potential to erode democracy and deepen polarization.

FADEL: Brazil is the biggest economic power in the region. And if we could just take a view - a larger view here of the geopolitical significance, you know, what will happen in the bigger picture?

STUENKEL: Well, just like the United States inspiring, you know, political events around the world, Brazil is the largest country in Latin America. And during the past four years, several leaders across the region have emerged that certainly inspire themselves in Bolsonaro. So we've now seen sort of a anti-democratic, nationalist, right-wing candidates emerging in countries like Chile, which until then had been, you know, fairly stable and not polarized. We've seen anti-establishment figures emerging elsewhere, which utilize same - similar strategies to Bolsonaro.

And I think that even though Bolsonaro is no longer president, he still has the capacity to destabilize politics in Brazil. There's certainly an interest in the international community that Brazil's democracy can go back to normal because unless it finds its equilibrium again, it, I think, will struggle much more to tackle many of the economic issues. And unless there is domestic stability, I think we can't really count on Brazil being a constructive member, addressing and participating actively in finding solutions to global problems.

FADEL: Oliver Stuenkel is a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo. Thank you so much.

STUENKEL: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.