“Bottles, glass, bullets”: on the ruins of a failed coup d’état in Brazil | Brazil

Adolf Hitler’s blue mustache was painted on a portrait of the Duke of Caxias, the 19th-century prime minister, on the second floor of Brazil’s presidential palace.

The Duke of Caxias at the Presidential Palace of Brazil.
The Duke of Caxias at the Presidential Palace of Brazil. Photograph: Tom Phillips/The Guardian

AND multi-million dollar masterpiece modernist legend Emiliano Dee Cavalcanti received seven stab wounds.

Even the palace press centers were not spared the wrath thousands of far-right rebels when they stormed the building on Sunday afternoon, as well as the National Congress and the Supreme Court.

Crashing into Oscar Niemeyer’s breathtakingly curved creation, the extremists relieved themselves in the press room and defecated in the photographer’s room next door.

“The whole place stank of urine and beer,” one palace official said of the moment officials re-entered the building after a Sunday of rage to discover scenes of unimaginable robbery.

Cut work by Di Cavalcanti.
Cut work by Di Cavalcanti. Photograph: Tom Phillips/The Guardian

The Guardian visited two of the three looted buildings in Brasilia on Monday afternoon, 24 hours after the attack by ardent supporters of the former president. Jair Bolsonaro.

The Palais Planalto and the National Congress are architectural gems at the heart of Niemeyer and Lucio Costa’s bold vision of a new, future-oriented Brazil in the 1950s.

Both now appear to have been hit by a natural disaster, their exterior windows smashed to bits by raging Bolsonarists desperate to overturn the results of an October election that their radical leader lost to his left-wing challenger. Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Signs in the Senate Museum still read, “Please do not touch the artwork.” But the rioters ignored them as they broke into the exhibition hall and began destroying hundreds of years of Brazilian art and political history.

A knife was pointed at the portraits of former Senate Presidents Renan Calleiros and José Sarney. A copy of the Brazilian constitution has been smashed out of a window and is now framed in shards of broken glass.

Outside, right-wing rebels have left their artwork behind; roughly scrawled graffiti demanding Bolsonaro’s support a military coup and an end to the communist threat, which they believe took over Brazil with Lula’s electoral victory.

“Thugs,” one cleaning lady denounced the putschists as she and dozens of others swept the glazed blue and lime green carpets of the congress while engineers checked for structural damage.

Workers replaced a broken mirror where a damaged painting hung in Brasilia after Bolsonaro's supporters stormed the congress.
Workers replaced a broken mirror where a damaged painting hung in Brasilia after Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed the congress. Photo: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Nearby, the entrance to the office of current Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco looked like a bank that had been attacked by robbers. The Chinese X-ray machine lay on its side; shards of glass covered the floor; internet cables hung from the ceiling like vines; two broken desktop computers lay on the table, their motherboards falling out.

Similar scenes of gratuitous and often infantile destruction took place in the presidential palace.

The cobblestones were torn from the entrance where, just a week ago, hundreds of guests had celebrated Lula’s inauguration and what they hoped would be progressive new era reconciliation and environmental protection after four years of separation and hatred.

Cleaners waded through decorative water features under the palace’s marble ramp, using nets to fish out the remnants of yesterday’s chaos.

“Bottles, glass, [rubber] bullets,” one worker said of the objects recovered from the waterhole while the cleanup continued.

The rebels have infiltrated the holy of holies of what should have been one of Brazil’s safest addresses, leaving behind a bizarre trail of destruction and fury and many questions about how such a politically sensitive building could have been left so undefended.

The mob failed to enter President Lula’s office, but other rooms were looted and destroyed. Curly lines have been scrawled with a felt-tip pen on the ceiling of a corridor occupied by members of the Bureau of Institutional Security, which is responsible for the security of the president. Chairs flew out of broken windows, rioters tried to set fire to the sofa.

One of Lula’s closest aides, Celso Amorim, said his office and that of Brazil’s First Lady Rosangela Lula da Silva were vandalized, and the rebels seemed to take particular pleasure in vandalizing her workplace.

Amorim, a former Brazilian defense minister, said he was struggling to understand why security and intelligence agencies were unable to detect or stop the threat. “Resistance arose only after the deed was done – as if it was allowed to happen,” he said.

Journalists were barred from the third looted Supreme Court building on Monday afternoon as federal police forensic experts rummaged through the rubble looking for fingerprints, clues and possibly even booby traps left by the Bolsonarists. But the white graffiti on the façade of the court spoke of the bedlam unfolding inside. “I have come, I have conquered,” read one plastered slogan. Another read: “You lost, idiot.”

As The Guardian approached the building, a black-clad member of the bomb disposal unit asked the reporters to back off: a controlled detonation of what he called a “grenade” was taking place just a few meters from its entrance.

A few minutes later, a deafening roar resounded over the Place des Three Powers, which Costa and Niemeyer had conceived as a symbol of political harmony between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said the military police officer guarding the court, and said several of his colleagues were injured during the pro-Bolsonaro riots. “Let’s hope better days are ahead.”

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