Brazilian Man Arrested For Planting Explosives Before Lula’s Inauguration

As the Brazilian capital of Brasilia braces for political unrest ahead of this week’s inauguration of progressive President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, city authorities arrested a man on Saturday who planted an explosive device nearby in a tanker trunk, CNN reported.

Brasilia police said at a press conference Sunday that they made the arrest after a bomb squad investigated the truck where it was parked near Brasilia International Airport, claiming that the 54-year-old suspect had tried unsuccessfully to detonate the device. A subsequent search of an apartment the man had rented in the city recovered numerous firearms, they said, along with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and additional explosive devices.

The suspect had apparently traveled to Brasilia to join election-denying demonstrators ahead of the Jan.1 inauguration in support of current right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. Protesters have formed encampments by military bases and are calling for the army to override the election results and reinstate Bolsonaro, who has still not conceded to Lula, the former president and winner of an Oct. 30 runoff election.

In the wake of the arrest, incoming minister of justice Flavio Dino tweeted on Sunday that “the so-called ‘patriotic’ camps have become incubators for terrorists,” likening the protestors to “political militias.”

The election deniers descended on the city weeks ago to express solidarity with Bolsonaro, who, like his ally, former U.S. President Donald Trump, has contested his loss citing unfounded claims about irregularities with the voting system. Tensions spilled over into violence earlier this month, when protesters, some cloaked in Brazilian flags, invaded federal police headquarters in Brasilia on the day officials certified Lula’s election, setting fire to a number of nearby vehicles and drawing a riot control response from the police.

That attack came after authorities arrested an indigenous man for allegedly organizing violent “anti-democratic acts” in Bolsonaro’s name, Reuters reported at the time.

But unlike Lula, Bolsonaro has not denounced the protests. Earlier this month, he expressed sympathy for the arrested indigenous man while addressing a crowd of supporters gathered at the presidential palace.

“Who decides where I go are you. Who decides which way the armed forces go are you,” Bolsonaro said.

The escalations pose a significant challenge for federal and local law enforcement ahead of next week’s inauguration.

“We’ve never had bombs here in Brazil,” the city’s chief of police said in a Sunday press conference detailing the arrest of the alleged would-be bomber. The chief added that the suspect was cooperating and had named other people involved in the plot, and police expect more arrests imminently.

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