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Sunday's violence exposed the political and social fault lines in Brazil

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden says Brazil's leader has his full support after thousands of rioters ransacked government offices. Sunday's rampage by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro exposed the political and social fault lines in Brazil. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Brasilia.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Workers were already making repairs Monday from the damage done by the rioters just one day before.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMERS TAPPING)

KAHN: With small hammers, they tapped rocks into gaps in the stone walkway leading up to the bright entrance of Brasilia's presidential offices. The pathway was torn up by Bolsonaro supporters. They used the stones to break windows and damage offices in the capital, targeting the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the offices of the president.

PABLO FONTES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: Upon seeing the destruction, 21-year-old Pablo Fontes says, "I'm filled with rage. I find it revolting. Revolting," he said. He's an education student and social activist who came from Rio de Janeiro for the inauguration of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

FONTES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "For me, Lula is the best politician that exists on our planet," he says. Fontes chokes up remembering the joy he felt just one week ago at Lula's inauguration. Everyone hoped, he said, the voices of young people, Black people like him and the poor would be heard again. And now he says it's too much to bear, seeing the plaza destroyed by a group who only wants to defend Bolsonaro's nationalism under the banner of God, homeland and family.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATERIAL FALLING)

KAHN: Across town, the mood is very different. Dozens of soldiers clean out the encampment which up until Sunday was used by Bolsonaro supporters ever since his October election defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I don't want to say anything because Brazil is a little bit complicated nowadays.

KAHN: This Bolsonaro supporter would not give his name and would only describe himself as a 43-year-old English teacher. Like the thousands who have been camping here in front of Brasilia's army headquarters, he believes the false claims that the election was stolen. He, too, had hoped that peaceful protesters could convince the army to intervene and reinstate the former president.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: But once they committed crime, destroying buildings and things that people were not supposed to do, they lost their reason.

KAHN: Yesterday, Brazil's newly appointed justice minister, Flavio Dino, told reporters that the hundreds of rioters would be prosecuted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FLAVIO DINO: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: And he vowed to find those who financed them, too. President Lula called for a return to normalcy and unity. Given the great divisions in Brazil right now, that will be a tall order. For the young Lula supporter Pablo Fontes, now is not the time to give up the fight.

FONTES: (Speaking Portuguese).

KAHN: "We will once again get our moment of hope," he says, "once all these violent rioters are properly prosecuted." Not so, says the Bolsonaro supporter who declined to give his name. He says his fellow protesters' first plan may not have succeeded...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Asking the army to take command didn't work.

KAHN: He insists, though, they won't give up.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Brasilia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.