Brazil’s Lula fires army commander in wake of riots

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Bolsonaro supporters storm the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 8. On Saturday, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired the head of Brazil’s army. File Photo by Andre Borges/EPA-EFE

Jan. 21 (UPI) — Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday fired the head of the country’s army, Gen. Julio Cesar de Arruda, two weeks after election-related riots gripped the country’s capital, administration officials said.

Lula made the decision after meeting Friday with Arruda and the commanders of the other military branches — Marcelo Kanitz Damasceno of the Air Force and Marcos Sampaio Olsen, Folha de São Paulo reported. Lula sought to have the head of the Presidential Guard Battalion removed in response to actions during the Jan. 8 riots, but Arruda wanted an investigation to take place first.

Brazil’s security forces have taken more than 1,200 people into custody since far-right supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro ransacked the congressional building, presidential palace and Supreme Court in Brasilia on Jan. 8. The protesters sought to overthrow Lula, who was sworn in to office Jan. 1.

Lula, a left-wing politician who previously served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, narrowly bested Bolsonaro in the late October election, garnering 50.9% of vote to 49.1%.

Sources told The Washington Post that Arruda initially told Lula administration officials not to arrest any of the rioters. Defense Minister José Mucio Monteiro gave the order for Arruda to step down, an administration official told the Post on Saturday.

Gen. Tomás Miguel Miné Ribeiro Paiva was named the new commander of the army in the wake of Arruda’s departure. Arruda had been in the role since Dec 28.

Arruda joins at least 40 other members of the military who have been ousted in the wake of the riots.

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