How a Mob Tried to Oust Brazil’s Lula

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On New Year’s Day, Mr. Lula ascended the ramp to Brazil’s presidential offices and accepted the green and gold presidential sash — not from Mr. Bolsonaro, as the law prescribed, but from a woman who collects trash to recycle. Mr. Bolsonaro had already decamped for Florida.

For roughly half the country, it was the welcome end to four years of tumult under Mr. Bolsonaro. But for millions of other Brazilians, it was the completion of an elaborate crime — a stolen election that they had been begging the military to overturn for two months.

Days later, calls went out across pro-Bolsonaro corners of the internet — in tweets, TikTok videos, Telegram channels and WhatsApp groups — for an enormous Sunday demonstration in the capital, right where Mr. Lula’s supporters had celebrated a week before.

Some digital fliers promised a party, while others called for something far more serious. There were messages that demanded blocked highways and oil refineries, and others that took aim at the heart of government.

“The plan is to surround Brasília,” one person wrote in a Telegram group, attaching an aerial image of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Planalto Palace, headquarters of the presidency, with each building circled.

“We need journalists from around the world to report on this moment,” another person responded, “so it will become marked in Brazil’s history.”

Yet the plans did not appear to overly alarm authorities.

Ricardo Cappelli, the No. 2 official at Brazil’s justice ministry, said that pro-Bolsonaro rallies had long taken on conspiratorial tones but had remained largely nonviolent. “It didn’t seem serious,” he said, “and it wasn’t big enough to be serious.”

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