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Police arrest man suspected of planting explosives in Brazil’s capital ahead of presidential inauguration

Anti-bomb Federal police work after what is believed to be an explosive artifact was found in Brasilia, Brazil, December 24, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

 (CNN) — The man arrested for being involved in a bombing attempt at Brasilia International Airport over the weekend said in a written statement to police that he intended to “create chaos” so a “siege state in the country” would be installed to prevent former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from taking office again in January.

The suspect, identified as 54-year-old gas station manager George Washington de Oliveira Sousa, was arrested on Saturday by police on suspicion of planting and possessing explosive devices one week ahead of Lula da Silva’s inauguration, Police Chief Robson Cândido said during a news briefing.

Police seized an explosive device found by a truck driver in a tanker truck close to the airport. Upon further investigation, police also found a rifle, two shotguns, revolvers, more than 1,000 pieces of ammunition and five explosive devices in the suspect’s rented apartment in Brasilia, police said.

“This is something that has never existed in Brasilia and we will not allow such demonstrations that may harm people and public property,” the police chief said during the briefing.

In the statement to the police, which CNN has seen, the suspect said he intended “to prevent the establishment of communism in Brazil” and “provoke an intervention of the armed forces.”

Though the administration of incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro has said it is cooperating with the transition of power, the far-right leader has stopped short of explicitly conceding his election loss on October 30. In protest, thousands of his supporters have gathered at military barracks across the country, asking the army to step in as they claim, with no evidence, that the election was stolen.

According to the police statement, Sousa arrived in Brasilia from his home state of Para on October 12 to join other Bolsonaro supporters, who were camped in front of the Armed Forces headquarters in the city.

Sousa said he was inspired by President Bolsonaro to spend over $30,000 to purchase the guns and ammunition, according to his statement.

CNN has reached out to Bolsonaro for comment.

In a statement sent to CNN, police confirmed the suspect intended to commit a crime at the airport and that they are carrying out new searches. No other arrests have been made, according to the police, and the camping site remains in front of the Army headquarters.

“We will not allow in Brasilia this type of demonstration that threatens lives, the people’s right to come and go or even property,” said Police Chief Cândido.

Brazil’s Army, Federal District Military Police and Justice Ministry all say they are aware of the matter and will continue to investigate the circumstances.

Flavio Dino, the justice minister appointee for Lula da Silva’s incoming government, said the event “proved that the so-called ‘patriotic’ camps have become incubators of terrorists.”

He added that measures were being taken to scale up the security around the inauguration and “the fight against terrorists and rioters will be intensified. Democracy has won and will win.”