Brazil’s top court bans guns from capital for tense inauguration

Supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro attacked federal police headquarters when Lula's victory was certified on December 12 [Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters]

Some supporters of outgoing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro have called for a coup to prevent a transition of power.

The Brazilian Supreme Court has issued a ruling banning registered gun-owners from carrying their weapons in the federal district — the region where the capital of Brasilia is located — until after the inauguration of President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes issued the temporary suspension on Wednesday, which covers both firearms and ammunition. The measure will be in effect starting this evening until January 2, the day after Lula’s inauguration.

Lula’s team reportedly requested the suspension amid concerns about potential violence.

Tensions have remained high in Brazil following Lula’s narrow victory over far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on October 31. Bolsonaro supporters have responded with acts of political violence, with some calling for a military coup to prevent Lula from being sworn in.

In the days following Bolsonaro’s loss, truckers and other protesters erected roadblocks at 271 points on Brazil’s highways, in an attempt to roll back the election results. And Bolsonaro supporters have set up camps near military barracks to encourage the army to act.

One group camping outside of army headquarters in Brasilia has developed a reputation as the most extreme. On December 12, members of the encampment attacked federal police headquarters in Brasilia following the official certification of the election results earlier in the day.

Last Saturday, a man was arrested for allegedly trying to set off a bomb to protest Lula’s win. He said that Bolsonaro had inspired him to build an arsenal of weapons.

For years, Bolsonaro spread false claims about widespread fraud in the country’s election system, hinting that he would not accept an election loss. In October’s presidential election, Bolsonaro delivered an unexpectedly strong performance in the first round, with 43.2 percent of the vote, but he nevertheless trailed his left-wing rival, Lula.

With neither candidate winning a clear majority, the election went to a second round, and on October 30, Lula emerged victorious. Since his defeat, Bolsonaro has mostly stayed silent. In a speech days after the election, he said he would follow the constitution but did not acknowledge Lula’s victory outright.

In November, Bolsonaro and his allies filed a complaint challenging the election results.

That effort was shot down by Moraes, who oversees Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE). He issued a fine against Bolsonaro’s coalition for bringing a complaint with a “total absence of any evidence”.

During his tenure in office, Bolsonaro rolled back restrictions on gun ownership, with the number of registered gun owners growing sixfold to about 700,000.

As Lula’s inauguration approaches, officials have expressed concern that Bolsonaro’s far-right supporters could create a dangerous atmosphere, and incoming Justice Minister Flavio Dino said that the court’s ruling would help ensure security.



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