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May 26, 2017

Protestors Set Fire to Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture in Brasilia

A wave of protestors in Brasilia turned violent on Wednesday as they invaded the Ministry of Agriculture building. They are upset about austerity measures that will be voted on in the Brazilian Congress. These measures will reign in worker's rights and reform Brazil's pension system.

Additionally, they are upset about the recent disclosures involving the Brazilian President discussing the payment of "hush money" to keep witnesses from testify in the ongoing "Car Wash" scandal. They are demanding that the President resign and for new direct elections to choose a new president instead of an interim president being appointed by the Brazilian Congress. An estimated 45,000 protestors took part in the demonstrations in Brasilia.

A private entrance to the building was set on fire as well as the auditorium. Numerous offices were invaded, computers were broken, windows were broken, and documents were spread around. According to a spokesperson for the Ministry, the military police were called in to control the situation and to put out the fires. Five people were injured in the protest including one policeman, a reporter covering the scene, and two protestors. An estimated 5% of the building was "trashed."

By Thursday afternoon the Ministry was open and functioning again. The damaged entrance remained closed as employees used an annex to enter the building. Approximately 40 staff members are involved in the cleanup and the reorganization of files and documents.

It is unclear if the Ministry of Agriculture was targeted by the protestors or if the lightly guarded building was just a convenient target for the protestors. There have been widespread demonstrations all across Brazil against the President and the entire political structure in Brazil.

The Minister of Agriculture, Blairo Maggi, went on social media and indicated that he was in the building meeting with his secretaries when the protestors invaded. He indicated that the extent of the damage is unclear, but it appears that the entrance, the auditorium, and ground floor windows took the brunt of the attack. He lamented that vandalism hurts the Brazilian democracy and that nobody gains from it.