Former president Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister says he will return to Brazil after authorities investigating Sunday’s riot by supporters of the far-right leader in the capital Brasília ordered his arrest.
Anderson Torres is the most high-profile figure so far sought in connection with the disturbances that saw thousands of the former president’s supporters invade and vandalise the presidential palace, congress and supreme court. Despite causing significant damage the riot ended within hours with over 1,000 of those involved detained.
The arrest warrant for Mr Torres comes as authorities reinforce security around federal buildings in Brasília and seek to head off further protests by Bolsonaro supporters campaigning to overturn last October’s presidential election, which he lost to left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The army has been placed on standby in the capital after Bolsonaro supporters sought to mobilise in the capital again on Wednesday.
There are also growing fears radical Bolsonaro supporters could turn to terrorist acts after several electricity pylons in two states were brought down on Tuesday. Brazil’s state electricity agency said there were “indications of vandalism” being responsible.
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Supreme court judge Alexandre de Moraes ordered Mr Torres’s arrest following a request from the attorney general’s office. It accuses him in his new role as the security chief of Brazil’s federal district, which includes the capital Brasília, of having facilitated the protests. Despite the planned march on Sunday, Mr Torres fired the top echelons of the capital’s police force after his appointment on January 2nd, before immediately going to Florida with his family on holidays.
The capital’s police have been severely criticised for the leniency with which they handled the violence, which was brought under control only after federal security forces were deployed. Speaking after the riot, Lula said of Mr Torres: “Everyone knows his reputation of colluding with the protesters.”
Citing Sunday’s disorder, Lula ordered the federal government to assume control of the security forces in the federal district.
In a separate move supreme court judge Moraes also removed the district’s governor, Ibaneis Rocha, from his position for 90 days, shortly after Mr Rocha fired Mr Torres as his security chief in the midst of the riot. Both men are Bolsonaro allies.
There are conflicting reports about whether Mr Torres was in contact with Mr Bolsonaro, who has been in Orlando, Florida, 5since December 30th. Mr Torres denied meeting with his former boss but Brazilian media, citing sources in the Lula administration, said the two men met the day before the riot.
The Biden administration is under pressure to expel Mr Bolsonaro following Sunday’s disturbances. The former president ostensibly went to the US to avoid handing over the presidential sash to Lula. But his failure to return to Brazil has led to speculation he is afraid of being arrested after losing his political immunity for the first time in three decades.
The former army captain is the target of a number of investigations related to his tumultuous four years as president, as well as his family’s murky finances. Several of these inquiries are being overseen by Judge Moraes, whom Bolsonaro has labelled a “scoundrel” and is a hate figure among the former president’s supporters for what they see as his abuse of his position as head of Brazil’s electoral court to tilt the election in Lula’s favour. Protesters who vandalised the supreme court on Sunday placed the door to Judge Moraes’s office for sale online after carrying it off.