Brazil police make arrests, probe coup attempt in Bolsonaro riots

Thursday's operation was related to a riot on December 12, the day Lula's victory was certified.

 A man uses his hand to cover his mouth during a protest held by supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro against President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who won a third term following the presidential election run-off, at the Army Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, November 15, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/UESLEI MARCELINO)
A man uses his hand to cover his mouth during a protest held by supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro against President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who won a third term following the presidential election run-off, at the Army Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, November 15, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/UESLEI MARCELINO)

Brazilian police said they carried out nationwide raids and arrested at least four people on Thursday in investigations into an alleged coup attempt during riots by supporters of defeated far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Authorities have been cracking down on a small but committed minority of Bolsonaro supporters who refuse to acknowledge leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's election victory this month.

The federal police said they were serving 32 search and seizure warrants in eight states under Supreme Court orders. A federal police source said two people had been arrested, one in Brasilia and another in Rio de Janeiro.

"The crimes under investigation are those of qualified damage, arson, criminal association, violent abolition of the rule of law and coup d'état, whose maximum combined penalties amount to 34 years in prison," the federal police said in a statement.

"The crimes under investigation are those of qualified damage, arson, criminal association, violent abolition of the rule of law and coup d'état, whose maximum combined penalties amount to 34 years in prison."

Federal police statement

Tensions remain high in Brazil after the most fraught election in a generation.

 Supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro react while gathering outside Bolsonaro's home, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 30, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LUCAS LANDAU) Supporters of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro react while gathering outside Bolsonaro's home, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 30, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/LUCAS LANDAU)

On December 24, police in Brasilia said they had foiled a bomb plot. A Bolsonaro supporter, with links to a group of election-deniers camped outside army headquarters, confessed to making the device to provoke the military into an intervention.

Operation related to riot earlier this month

Thursday's operation was related to a riot on December 12, the day Lula's victory was certified, when some supporters from the encampment attacked the federal police headquarters and set cars and buses on fire in Brasilia after the arrest of a pro-Bolsonaro indigenous leader.

Federal police said they had teamed up with civil police to investigate the attack and then shared their findings with the Supreme Court. No names of targets were given.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the December 12 riots were the result of days of mounting tensions in the pro-Bolsonaro camp after the December 6 arrest of Milton Baldin, a Bolsonarista who had urged the nation's registered gun-owners to come to Brasilia to protest Lula's electoral certification.

With growing fears about security risks for Lula's Jan. 1 inauguration in the capital, Brazil's Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to ban registered gun-owners from carrying firearms in the federal district until after he takes office.