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Tuesday, Feb 07, 2023

Former Brasilia's public security chief accused of ‘sabotage’

Brasília’s former public security chief has been accused of “sabotaging” local police forces and failing to stop Sunday’s riots in Brazil’s capital.
Anderson Torres was dismissed from his role after supporters of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court.

He was accused on Tuesday of leaving the security forces without leadership. Torres has denied playing any part in the riots.

The rioting came a week after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, was sworn in.

The dramatic scenes saw thousands of protesters, some clad in yellow Brazil football shirts and waving flags, overrun police and ransack the heart of the Brazilian state.

On Tuesday, the federal intervenor in public security accused Torres of “a structured sabotage operation”.

Ricardo Cappelli, who has been appointed to run security in Brasília, said there was a “lack of command” from Torres before government buildings were stormed.

Lula’s inauguration on Jan. 1 was “an extremely successful security operation,” Cappelli told CNN.

What changed before Sunday was that, on Jan. 2, “Anderson Torres took over as Secretary of Security, dismissed the entire command and traveled,” he said.

“If this isn’t sabotage, I don’t know what is,” Cappelli added.

Torres that he deeply regretted the “absurd hypotheses” that he played any part in the riots.

He said the scenes, which occurred during his family holiday, were lamentable and said it was “the most bitter day” of his personal and professional life.

Lula has accused security forces of “neglecting” their duty in not halting the “terrorist acts” in Brasília.

Bolsonaro, who has condemned the riots, has not admitted defeat from October’s tight election that divided the nation, and flew to the US before the handover on Jan. 1. On Monday, he was admitted to hospital in Florida with abdominal pain.

A day after the riots, heavily armed officers started dismantling a camp of Bolsonaro’s supporters in Brasília — one of a number that have been set up outside army barracks around the country since the presidential election.

Authorities arrested 1,200 people — in addition to 300 detained on Sunday.

Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister, was fired from his role as Secretary of Public Security on Sunday by Brasília governor Ibaneis Rocha.

Rocha was himself later removed from his post for 90 days by the Supreme Court.

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.

Lula has also taken aim at the security forces, accusing them of “incompetence, bad faith or malice” for failing to stop demonstrators accessing Congress.

“You will see in the images that they [police officers] are guiding people on the walk to Praca dos Tres Powers,” he said. “We are going to find out who the financiers of these vandals who went to Brasília are and they will all pay with the force of law.”

Video shared by the Brazilian outlet O Globo showed some officers laughing and taking photos together as demonstrators occupied the congressional campus in the background.

Protesters had been gathering since the morning on the lawns in front of the parliament and up and down the kilometer of the Esplanada avenue, which is lined with government ministries and national monuments.

Despite the actions of the protesters, in the hours before the chaos, security had appeared tight, with the roads closed for about a block around the parliament area and armed police pairs guarding every entrance into the area.

The BBC had seen about 50 police officers around on Sunday morning local time and cars were turned away at entry points, while those entering on foot were frisked by police checking bags.

According to Katy Watson, the BBC’s South America correspondent, some protesters aren’t just angry that Bolsonaro lost the election — they want President Lula to return to prison.

Bolsonaro has gone very quiet since losing October’s elections, she said, adding that in not publicly conceding defeat, he’s allowed his most ardent supporters to remain angry over a democratic election that he legitimately lost.

The former president condemned the attack and denied responsibility for encouraging the rioters in a post on Twitter some six hours after violence broke out.

On Tuesday, his son, Brazilian Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, said people should not try to link his father to the riots, stating that he has been silently “licking his wounds” since losing the election.
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