World Leaders React With Dismay at Capitol Hill Violence
(Bloomberg) -- Leaders around the world expressed disappointment and anger at Wednesday’s chaos in Washington and warned the U.S. had its work cut out to remain an example of the democratic values it has championed.
“All my life America has stood for some very important things; the idea of freedom and an idea of democracy,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, after President Donald Trump’s supporters rampaged into the Capitol building and disrupted the confirmation vote for Joe Biden’s election win.
“Insofar as he encouraged people to storm the Capitol and insofar as the president consistently has cast doubt on the outcome of a free and fair election, I believe that that was completely wrong,” Johnson said. “And I unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol.”
Another leader who has previously voiced support of Trump, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, called the scenes “very distressing” and said he was looking forward to a peaceful transfer of power.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed anger and sadness over the images from Washington. “I regret very much that President Trump has not recognized his defeat since November, and again yesterday,” she told reporters in Berlin. “Doubt was sown about the election result and that created the atmosphere for the events of yesterday evening.”
“The rampage at the Capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act that must be vigorously condemned,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to his office. “I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail -- it always has.”
Their comments came after Biden -- whose victory was confirmed by Congress early Thursday -- used a televised appearance to urge Americans to “think what the rest of the world is looking at” when they viewed the chaotic scenes from Washington.
Czech Premier Andrej Babis, also a billionaire businessman-turned politician, ditched his social-media profile picture in which he was wearing a red hat mimicking the U.S. president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“It’s true that it was inspired by Trump,” Babis told the Czech news website Idnes.cz. “After the unprecedented attack on democracy that happened in the U.S., which I unequivocally condemned, I found it appropriate to express my stance by also changing my profile picture.”
While some European lawmakers issued statements backing U.S. institutions and its democracy to overcome the turmoil, others were more condemning of the president and his supporters.
“The enemies of democracy will rejoice at these unbelievable images out of Washington,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Inflammatory words reap violent deeds.” Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “shame on those who have incited this attack on democracy.”
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter that the storming of the capital was “a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting president,” adding that “the world is watching.” Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said his “sincere hope is that the evil man who bears the responsibility ultimately will suffer the consequences.”
Other leaders on friendly terms with Trump played down their comments.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia that he stood by Trump. Bolsonaro has been a staunch backer of Trump, ditching Brazil’s multilateral approach to foreign policy to fully align his country to the U.S.
“You know I am connected to Trump, you know my response,” he said, adding that there “have been many reports of fraud” in the U.S. election. Bolsonaro also said he believed the 2018 Brazilian election -- which he won in a runoff -- was riddled with fraud. “There was fraud during mine. I should have won in the first round,” he said.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday he wouldn’t take a position on the storming of the Capitol because he didn’t want to interfere with the internal affairs of another nation. But he said he opposed anyone being deprived of the right to send messages via Twitter or Facebook.
“One thing I didn’t like about the Capitol matter -- and with all due respect -- but I don’t like censorship,” Lopez Obrador said.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who considers himself an ally of Trump, refrained from criticism of the U.S. leader, saying in a tweet the events in Washington were an “internal affair” and that power depended on the will of the voters.
Meanwhile, China used the opportunity to drive home a narrative of American hypocrisy, with state media casting the situation as “retribution” for Washington’s support for global protest movements.
And Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement on state media that the Capitol Hill drama “shows us how weak and flaccid Western democracy is,” adding Trump -- who nixed an accord with Iran on its nuclear program and had a highly antagonistic relationship with Tehran -- “diminished his country’s dignity.”
“I hope this serves as a lesson to the whole world and for the next rulers of the White House, and that those who arrive in two weeks and take power make up for it, return the American people to where they ought to be,” Rouhani added.
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