Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday rejected accusations against him by his successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that he incited the invasion of the seat of power in Brasilia, condemning the "pillaging and invasions of public buildings" in the country's capital.
Mr Bolsonaro rejected what he called new President Lula's "baseless" accusations. He said on Twitter that peaceful demonstrations were a part of democracy but that any invasion of government buildings crossed the line.
Supporters of Brazil's far-right former president on Sunday invaded the country's Congress, presidential palace and Supreme Court, in a grim echo of the US Capitol invasion two years ago by fans of former President Donald Trump.
The uprising, which lasted a little over three hours, underlined the severe polarization that still grips the country days after Lula's inauguration.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from their rampage, but the invaders left a trail of destruction, throwing furniture through the smashed windows of the presidential palace, flooding parts of Congress with a sprinkler system and ransacking ceremonial rooms in the Supreme Court.
Leftist President Lula, who defeated Bolsonaro in the most fraught election in a generation last year, announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia lasting until Jan 31 after capital security forces initially were overwhelmed by the invaders.
Lula, who announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia until Jan.31 after capital security forces were initially overwhelmed by the invaders, blamed Bolsonaro for inflaming his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations about potential election fraud.
"These vandals, who we could call fanatical Nazis, fanatical Stalinists ... fanatical fascists, did what has never been done in the history of this country," said Lula, who was on an official trip to Sao Paulo state. "All these people who did this will be found and they will be punished."
The president's allies also raised questions about how public security forces in the capital Brasilia were so unprepared and easily overwhelmed by rioters who had been planning on social media for days to gather for weekend demonstrations.
The sight of thousands of yellow-and-green clad protesters running riot in the capital capped months of tension following the Oct 30 vote.
Bolsonaro, an acolyte of Trump's who has yet to concede defeat, peddled the false claim that Brazil's electronic voting system was prone to fraud, spawning a violent movement of election deniers.
Around 6.30pm local time, some three hours after the initial reports of the invasion, security forces managed to retake the three buildings, GloboNews reported. TV images showed dozens of rioters being led away in handcuffs.
The invasion poses an immediate problem for Lula, who was only inaugurated on Jan 1 and has pledged to unite a nation torn by Bolsonaro's nationalist populism. Television images showed protesters breaking into the Supreme Court and Congress, chanting slogans and smashing furniture. Local media estimated about 3,000 people were involved.
Bolsonaro, who has barely spoken in public since losing the election, left Brazil for Florida 48 hours before the end of his mandate and was absent from Lula's inauguration.
"This genocidist ... is encouraging this via social media from Miami," Lula said, referring to Bolsonaro. "Everybody knows there are various speeches of the ex-president encouraging this."
The violent scenes in Brasilia could amplify the legal risks to Bolsonaro, who has so far not commented on the invasions. The Bolsonaro family lawyer, Frederick Wassef, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court was ransacked by the occupiers, according to social media images that showed protesters shattering the windows of the modernist building.
A policeman on horseback was surrounded by shouting demonstrators armed with sticks who knocked him off his mount.
The Supreme Court, whose crusading Justice Alexandre de Moraes has been a thorn in the side of Bolsonaro and his supporters, was ransacked by the invaders, according to images from social media which showed protesters clubbing security cameras and shattering the windows of the modernist building.
Both Moraes and the court's Chief Justice Rosa Weber vowed punishment for the "terrorists" who had attacked the country's democratic institutions. The heads of both houses of Congress denounced the attacks publicly and moved up plans to fly back to the capital, according to people familiar with the matter.
Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha wrote on Twitter that he had fired his top security official, Anderson Torres, previously Bolsonaro's justice minister. The solicitor general's office said it had filed a request for the arrest of Torres.
The US government, which for months has sought to urge Bolsonaro to stop sowing unfounded election doubts, came out firmly in defence of Brazil's democratic institutions as did a bevvy of other foreign leaders.
US President Joe Biden, whose own presidency was marked by a similar event, said the situation was "outrageous". His Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered Washington's full support to Lula and Brazil's institutions.
"We condemn the attacks on Brazil's Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court," Blinken wrote on Twitter. "Using violence to attack democratic institutions is always unacceptable. We join Lula in urging an immediate end to these actions."
On Saturday, with rumors of a confrontation brewing, Justice Minister Flávio Dino authorised the deployment of the National Public Security Force. On Sunday, he wrote on Twitter, "this absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail."
Latin American leaders were quick to condemn the scenes.
"All my solidarity with Lula and the people of Brazil," Colombian President Gustavo Petro tweeted. "Fascism decides to conduct a coup."
Chilean President Gabriel Boric said Lula's government has his full support "in the face of this cowardly and vile attack on democracy."
In Washington in 2021, Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades and stormed the Capitol in a failed effort to prevent congressional certification of Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.
Trump, who has announced a third bid for the presidency, in 2024, had pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify the vote, and he continues to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud.
In Brasilia there have been at least three accounts of protesters assaulting journalists, according to the Brasilia journalists' union, which cited unconfirmed reports.