Brazil Electric Towers Hit With Sabotage After Bolsonaro Supporters Riot

By Mariana Durao and Peter Millard | January 18, 2023

Brazil has suffered a series of attacks on electricity towers since the Jan. 8 capitol riots, an unnerving development for a major economy that has no history of infrastructure sabotage.

Four pylons have been toppled and another 12 vandalized since Jan. 8, when rioters stormed the capitol in a failed attempt to provoke a military coup. So far the damage hasn’t disrupted power service. No groups have claimed responsibility for the sabotage.

“This situation is something new for Brazil,” said Pedro Rodrigues, a partner at Rio de Janeiro-based energy and infrastructure consultancy CBIE. “Without a doubt this is a large challenge for the government.”

Mines and Energy Minister Alexandre Silveira met with top security and electricity officials on Monday to set up contingency plans and increase surveillance with cameras and drones. The Federal Police have launched an investigation, he said.

The most recent toppling of a transmission tower happened on Jan. 14, after the government had stepped up security measures for power lines. The attacks underscore how difficult it is to protect infrastructure in a developing country that is almost as large as the continental US.

The US has also suffered attacks on power infrastructure. In December, criminals targeted two substations in North Carolina and knocked out electricity for about 45,000 homes and businesses.

Brazil’s energy regulator Aneel says the energy companies affected – Furnas, Eletronorte, NBTE, Taesa and ISA CTEEP – are working on repairs. The minister said there had been an attack on a facility in Maranhao in December.

State-controlled oil company Petrobras has also stepped up security at its refineries following the riots as a precaution.

Top photo: Workers repair an electricity line in Olinda, state of Pernambuco, Brazil, on December 09, 2012. Photographer: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

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