When the tear gas started wafting through the streets of Brasilia, many Key Biscayne residents like Bruna Iasi stared at video images of Sunday’s insurrection at their nation’s capitol. She was stunned as thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro swarmed government buildings, seeking to overturn an election.
“It’s a copycat of America,” said Iasi, who sits on the church school board, as she referred to the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. two years ago.
“It was really, really shocking,” she said.
The hard-right Bolsonaro was narrowly defeated in October by a former president, leftist leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. While Iasi says she’s no fan of Lula –who’d earlier been jailed in a corruption scandal and was later freed after a court found prosecutorial misconduct– she recoiled at the protests and the destruction of national treasures.
“Lula should be in jail. But two wrongs do not make a right.”
In Key Biscayne, many Brazilians attend Crossbridge Church, where one of the organization’s seven, closely-knit campuses is located in Sao Paulo. Its senior pastor, the Rev. Felipe Assis, hails from a Brazilian family of pastors.
“All Crossbridge pastors, we take a neutral approach, at least publicly, when it comes to politics,” Assis said in a statement.
Many popular evangelical leaders in Brazil have supported Bolsonaro, just as many U.S. evangelicals have supported former President Donald Trump. But some Brazilian church leaders rejected the protests Sunday.
Initially reluctant to discuss the situation, Rev. Assis said Crossbridge has deliberately steered clear of any political affiliation.
“We have people there on both sides, and people who are revolted, due to the fact that there is an ex-convict criminal in power, and others who see this Lula as the new president with good eyes, because they take a more progressive political approach to how the country should move forward and recover,” Assis said.
Bolosnaro was in an Orlando area hospital yesterday. His wife, Michelle, said on social media that he had been hospitalized for observation due to abdominal discomfort related to a 2018 stabbing that has led to multiple hospitalizations in the past. A photo published by Brazilian newspaper O Globo showed him smiling from his hospital bed.
Bolsonaro Popular Among Florida’s Brazilians
Florida has the largest population of residents who were born in Brazil – nearly 130,000 people –- of any U.S. state, according to Census figures. Many more come as visitors, with 830,000 Brazilians traveling to central Florida in 2019, the third largest international market for the area.
Though Lula won Brazil’s election by more than 2 million votes, Brazilian voters living in Florida appear to have heavily favored Bolsonaro. Election data for Brazilians living abroad shows 56 polling locations listed under Miami, the only Florida city under which data is compiled.
In each of the 56 areas, Bolsonaro prevailed, some by margins of 6-to-1. All told, more than 16,000 votes were counted among Brazilians under the Miami umbrella, with 81% favoring Bolsonaro.
“Most Brazilians in Key Biscayne are Bolsonaro supporters,” said Jay Correa, Crossbridge’s former worship leader, who spoke from Niteroi, a large suburb of Rio de Janeiro.
But he and others interviewed said they did not fear for the stability of the country, despite the turmoil.
“I don’t think this will go anywhere,” Correa said. “It’s pretty calm right now.”
Still, Lula’s government was reacting quickly. Brazilian police on Monday had already rounded up roughly alleged 1,500 rioters, with some caught in the act of trashing Brazil’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, while the majority were detained the following morning at an encampment in Brasilia.
Many were held in a gymnasium throughout the day, and video shared on pro-Bolsonaro social media channels showed some complaining about poor treatment in the crowded space.
The Federal Police’s press office told The Associated Press the force plans to indict at least 1,000 people, and has begun transferring them to the nearby Papuda prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tony Winton was a former board member of Crossbridge Church. He resigned in 2021.