Chaos erupted in Brazil’s capital city Sunday in scenes eerily reminiscent of the insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol building two years ago.
As if working from the same playbook as supporters of former U.S. president Donald Trump, Brazilian supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed three separate federal government buildings in Brasilia – the congressional building, the Supreme Court and Planalto Presidential Palace, according to televised reports from Brazil.
The throngs breached barriers set up by Brazil’s military and gained access to the buildings in protest over Bolsonaro’s loss to president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who returned to the job after his inauguration on Jan. 1. He beat Bolsonaro in a runoff election in late October.
Bolsonaro, who was president from 2019 through 2022 and was compared to Trump when he took office, refused to concede the election and his supporters’ rallying cry has been that he lost a rigged election. Trump’s same claims after he lost the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Joe Biden ultimately led to the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt in Washington, D.C., scores of subsequent arrests and convictions, and continued investigations into Trump’s involvement as a still-sitting president who urged his supporters to march to the U.S. capital Jan. 6, 2021.
But there’s an apparent MMA wrinkle with Bolsonaro, who fled Brazil for the U.S. on Dec. 30, just two days before Lula da Silva’s inauguration – reportedly out of fear once the new president was officially installed, he’d be vulnerable to potential legal difficulties with multiple investigations unfolding stemming from his time in office. And according to multiple reports the former president is in Reunion, Fla., a part of Kissimmee near Orlando – and is staying in a vacation house owned by former UFC featherweight champion and all-time great Jose Aldo, who recently announced his MMA retirement.
Aldo, from Brazil, is one of many MMA fighters from the country who publicly supported Bolsonaro while he was in office. Darren Till was born in England, but spent years living, training and fighting in Brazil. He announced his support for Bolsonaro in 2017 well before the election that saw him take office. Paulo Costa is another UFC fighter who has been outspoken with support for Bolsonaro, as have prominent fighters like Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Rafael dos Anjos, Royce Gracie, and Ronaldo Souza.
Another formerly high-ranking Brazilian official reportedly joined Bolsonaro in Florida, as well. Brasilia governor Ibaneis Rocha announced that Anderson Torres, the federal district’s head of security who was tasked with the area’s safety, had been fired. Torres is one of Bolsonaro’s allies and was his minister of justice.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser in the White House, condemned the violence on Twitter: “The United States condemns any effort to undermine democracy in Brazil,” Sullivan posted. “President Biden is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering. Brazil’s democracy will not be shaken by violence.”
The civil unrest in Brazil comes less than two weeks before the UFC’s planned return to the country for UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, which will be the first UFC card there since the last show before the 2020 pandemic. A UFC official told MMA Junkie on Sunday there is not any change in plans to announce for that event, though it’s safe to say just how widespread the protests potentially could become will play a factor in the coming days.
Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia is more than 700 miles away from Rio, where UFC 283 is set to take place – or roughly the distance from New York to Chicago.