January 27, 2023

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Brazil police investigate suspected bomb threat ahead of inauguration By Reuters

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© Reuters. Members of the security forces stand near a cordoned off area following a suspected bomb threat in the city’s hotel section, close to where President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is staying before his Jan. 1 inauguration, according to the federal di

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BRASILIA (Reuters) -Police in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, were investigating a suspected bomb threat in the city’s hotel section, close to where President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was staying before his Jan. 1 inauguration, the federal district’s security department said on Tuesday.

A Reuters witness said sirens and helicopters could be heard from the hotel where Lula was staying. Brasilia’s military police said a backpack had been found and the bomb squad had been called out of precaution.

Brasilia has grown increasingly tense after Lula beat far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in October in the country’s most fraught election in a generation.

On Dec. 24, Brasilia police said they foiled a bomb plot, arresting a man with ties to an encampment of pro-Bolsonaro election deniers camped outside the army headquarters, who have been urging the military to overturn Lula’s victory.

George Washington Sousa, who confessed to making the device and plotting with other camp-dwellers to explode it, said he hoped that the bomb would “provoke a military intervention … to prevent the installation of communism in Brazil.”

Earlier in December, a group from the army encampment tried to invade the federal police HQ after the arrest of a pro-Bolsonaro indigenous leader for alleged anti-democratic threats.

The political tensions in the capital have prompted Lula’s team to beef up security protocols for Sunday’s inauguration, incoming Justice Minister Flavio Dino said on Monday.

On Tuesday, Dino said the transition team will ask the Supreme Court to suspend the carrying of firearms in Brasilia for the next few days.

Since Bolsonaro began loosening gun laws in 2019, the number of registered gun-owners has surged sixfold to around 700,000 people. Some of Bolsonaro’s most extreme supporters have registered as gun-owners to stockpile arms, and they are increasingly being seen as a public security threat.

“We will ask Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who is leading the inquiry into anti-democratic acts (at the Supreme Court), to suspend the carrying of firearms in the Federal District between tomorrow (Wednesday) and Jan. 2 or 3,” Dino told journalists.

“The goal is that even people who have permits … have this suspension by court order, so that it is configured that any carrying (of firearms) in this period will be considered a crime.”