Opinion | Bolsonaro ‘The Trump of the Tropics’ Goes Bust

They insisted to me that Mr. Lula wouldn’t be sworn in on Jan. 1. “We are certain that he won’t,” said a woman in her 70s. (The people I spoke to declined to give their names out of fear for their safety.) When I asked what might happen instead, the woman hinted at two possible outcomes: Either the military would be called to support a presidential coup — just as the bolsonaristas wanted — or the “good citizens” would take to the streets — also allegedly under Mr. Bolsonaro’s instructions — to ensure that he stayed in power.

Mr. Lula’s administration, a broad coalition of democratic forces, will lead the country to communism, the protesters told me. That’s why they called for military intervention while interpreting possible secret messages that the president has tapped to them in Morse code. (Yes, they’ve spent some time trying to decipher the drumming of Mr. Bolsonaro’s fingers on a desk during his last livestream.)

The truth is that Mr. Bolsonaro’s political capital has dwindled. When he left the country, his vice president, General Hamilton Mourão, told the nation: “The alternation of power in a democracy is healthy and must be preserved.” He also made a blunt reference to “leaders who were supposed to reassure and unite the nation around a project for the country” but who had instead fomented a climate of chaos and social collapse. Ouch. It appears that even the armed forces just want a calm transition to power so they can remain a privileged class without too many responsibilities.

Some of Mr. Bolsonaro’s former allies in Congress now support Mr. Lula, and the former president’s Digital Popularity Index, which is tracked by a consulting firm, has fallen more than half since its peak.

But hard-core bolsonaristas aren’t to go quietly. Only on Monday did they remove their tents from outside military barracks in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and other cities. In Brasília, authorities dismantled the camp and detained 1,200 people. The demonstrators have been waiting for more than two months for a miracle to happen. When it didn’t, they tried to take the government by force.

In response, Mr. Lula signed an emergency decree allowing the federal government to intervene and restore order to the capital. It will remain in effect until the end of the month. The federal district governor was temporarily removed from his post by a Supreme Court judge. A criminal investigation has been opened to identify the rioters and their financial sponsors. On Monday, a member of Congress asked the government to request Mr. Bolsonaro’s extradition.

Democracies need the rule of law to flourish. They also need a shared understanding that power must be transferred peacefully. Mr. Lula has his work cut out for him to hold his nation together. A good starting point will be to keep calm after these deplorable events and firmly follow the rites of justice to hold the culprits accountable.

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