The French President and the German chancellor condemned ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters as they stormed the Brazilian Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace before trashing the nation’s highest seats of power.

Brazilian authorities were picking up the pieces and investigating Monday after thousands of rioters joined the attack.

The protesters were seeking military intervention to either restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power or oust the newly inaugurated leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in scenes of chaos and destruction reminiscent of the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.

In response to the attacks, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in both French and Portuguese: “The will of the Brazilian people and the democratic institutions must be respected! President Lula can count on the unwavering support of France.”

Echoing his statement, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also wrote: “Bad pictures reach us from Brazil.

“The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated. We stand close to President Lula and the Brazilian people!”

Others in the EU also joined in condemning the rioters.

European Council President Charles Michel wrote: “My absolute condemnation of the assault on the democratic institutions of Brazil.

“Full support for President Lula democratically elected by millions of Brazilians through fair and free elections.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “I strongly condemn the assault on democracy in Brasil. This is a major concern to all of us, the defenders of democracy. My full support to President Lula who was elected freely and fairly.”

EU Commissioner Josep Borrell echoed: “Appalled by the acts of violence and illegal occupation of Brasilia’s government quarter by violent extremists today.

“Full support to Lula and his government, to Congress and to the Federal Supreme Court.

“Brazilian democracy will prevail over violence and extremism.”

French MEP Manon Aubry also said: “Like Trump’s in the US, Bolsonaro’s supporters are attempting a coup in Brazil. All over the world, the far right is fighting democracy.

“Full support for Lula, the people’s president.”

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Rioters donning the green and yellow of the national flag on Sunday broke windows, toppled furniture, hurled computers and printers to the ground.

They punctured a massive Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting in five places, overturned the U-shaped table at which Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice’s office and vandalised an iconic statue outside the court. The monumental buildings’ interiors were left in states of ruin.

In a news conference late Sunday, Brazil’s minister of institutional relations said the buildings would be inspected for evidence including fingerprints and images to hold people to account, and that the rioters apparently intended to spark similar such actions nationwide.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and coup-mongering and that authorities have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital.

“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” said Dino.

“We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political battles in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.

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So far, 400 people have been arrested, the federal district’s civil police said on Twitter.

In the months that followed Bolsonaro’s October 30 electoral defeat, Brazil was on edge – leery of any avenue he might pursue to cling to power. Bolsonaro had been stoking belief among his hardcore supporters that the electronic voting system was prone to fraud — though he never presented any evidence. And his lawmaker son Eduardo Bolsonaro held several meetings with Trump, Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon and his senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller.

Results from Brazil’s election — the closest in over three decades — were quickly recognized by politicians across the spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies, as well as dozens of governments. And Bolsonaro surprised nearly everyone by promptly fading from view.

He neither conceded defeat nor emphatically cried fraud, though he and his party submitted a request to nullify millions of votes that was swiftly dismissed.

Brazilians have used electronic voting since 1996. Election security experts consider such systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail. Brazil’s system is, however, closely scrutinized and domestic authorities and international observers have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.

Still, Bolsonaro’s supporters refused to accept the results. They blocked roads and camped outside military buildings, urging the armed forces to intervene. Protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, but isolated threats of terrorism — including a bomb found on a fuel truck headed to Brasilia’s airport — had prompted security concerns.

Two days before Lula’s January 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro flew to the US and took up temporary residence in Orlando. Many Brazilians expressed relief that, while he declined to participate in the transition of power, his absence allowed it to occur without incident.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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