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Brazil officials are looking into why rioters saw such little resistance from police


Authorities in Brazil are looking into how rioters who ransacked government buildings this weekend were able to do so with little resistance from police. More than a thousand protesters invaded the Supreme Court, the Congress and the presidential offices. The rioters support Brazil's former far-right president and believed false claims that the election was stolen. They hoped the military would step in and overthrow the government. We're joined now by NPR's South America correspondent, Carrie Kahn, who's in the capital, Brasilia. Hi, Carrie.


SUMMERS: So, Carrie, how did so many rioters, thousands of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, how were they able to just walk up to all of these government buildings and cause so much destruction?

KAHN: And they did it so easily. That's what authorities are trying to get to the bottom of. Clearly, clearly, there was a huge breach of security. It was a Sunday when the rioters attacked the government buildings, but the intelligence was there, that they were coming, not to mention they marched for over an hour from an encampment where they had been for months in front of the capital's army headquarters. They were marching toward the giant esplanade where the three government buildings are located. It was no secret they were coming. Here is President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaking about who he says is to blame for this huge security lapse. He holds nothing back.



KAHN: Angrily, he's saying the negligence was on the part of Brasilia's police, the state force. Also failures in intelligence happened by the state police. He even goes as far as to say that there was collusion on the part of the state police and the rioters.

SUMMERS: President Lula there blaming the state police for security lapses that made this breach possible. So, Carrie, what's happened to the authorities there since then?

KAHN: First off, the head of security for the state police was immediately fired. Today, reportedly, an arrest warrant has been issued for him. He's actually in the U.S. He tweeted from there that he did nothing wrong and that the idea that he colluded with the rioters is, quote, "absurd." He's a close ally of former President Bolsonaro; so is the actual governor of Brasilia, who's been placed on a 90-day leave. Authorities are also looking at breaches in intelligence. Specifically, why didn't the state beef up their ranks as these supporters of Bolsonaro started streaming into the Capitol? You know, as many as 80 packed buses arrived in Brasilia throughout the weekend. And there are reports that the federal government gave that intelligence to the state officials and they just ignored it.

SUMMERS: So what is it like now in Brasilia? Are government offices there now back open?

KAHN: The damage to these three main buildings of the government, especially to the Supreme Court, is extensive. The cleanup is underway. These buildings were designed by the futuristic architect Oscar Niemeyer, and they're made of huge panes of glass. And nearly all the windows, especially on the first floors, were smashed. And now they're removed. Today, I was given a tour by Lula's spokesman, Jose Chrispiniano, and we toured the presidential office building. You might be able to hear the wind actually rushing through the building while we're talking.

JOSE CHRISPINIANO: And how much destructive hate those people carry on here. It was very irrational, very irrational and very misguided.

KAHN: He says the rioters called themselves patriots and wrapped themselves in the Brazilian flag but defiled our history so easily and viciously. He said the damage to the art, the treasures in the building was horrific. One desk made of precious wood used by the first president who ever worked in Brasilia was thrown out the third-floor window.

SUMMERS: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Brasilia, thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.