World leaders urge peaceful transition as Trump backers unleash violence

UN chief Antonio Guterres is saddened by the events at US Capitol, said spokesman Stephane Dujarric

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An explosion caused by a police munition at the Capitol Building on January 6. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The violence unleashed by President Donald Trump’s supporters at the US Capitol during a joint session of Congress, prompting the police to fire teargas and bullets, on Wednesday has left leaders across the world appalled and outraged. What followed was condemnation!

In a statement, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wondered, “What is happening is wrong?”

“Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob. Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today. I have no doubt democracy will prevail,” she said in a tweet.

The chaotic scenes from the storming of the building at the centre of American democracy by angry supporters of President Donald Trump are normally associated with countries where popular uprisings topple a dictator. The Arab Spring, for instant, or the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

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But this time it was an attempt by American citizens to stop a peaceful transition to power after a democratic election in a country that many around the world have looked at as a model for democratic governance.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is saddened by the events at the U.S. Capitol, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. In such circumstances, it is important that political leaders impress on their followers the need to refrain from violence, as well as to respect democratic processes and the rule of law.

Several countries, both allies and antagonists of America, issued travel warnings to their citizens.

Australia warned its citizens to avoid protests following what Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described as rather disturbing scenes in the United States.

“The riots and protests that we’ve seen in Washington, DC, have been terribly distressing. They’re very concerning,” Morrison told reporters shortly after the US Congress resumed proceedings late Wednesday Washington time.

The Chinese Embassy in the United States also warned its citizens about the grave situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the large scale protest march in Washington that prompted the city government to impose a curfew. “The Chinese Embassy to the US reminds Chinese citizens in the US to closely follow their local virus and safety situations, raise their vigilance, be aware of their personal security and consider deeply before visiting public spaces,” the Embassy said in a notice on its website.

Leaders around the world condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

“Disgraceful scenes in US Congress,” tweeted Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, a staunch US ally for generations. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.

Other allies were similarly appalled at what they described as an attack on American democracy, though some said they believed US democratic institutions would withstand the turmoil. Some leaders singled out Trump for harsh criticism.

Trump and his supporters should finally accept the decision of the American voters and stop trampling on democracy, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter.

“The beauty of democracy?” with a shrug emoji was the reaction tweeted by Bashir Ahmad, a personal assistant to the president of Nigeria, which has seen several coups since independence including one led decades ago by President Muhammadu Buhari, who most recently entered the office via a vote.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and Colombian President Iván Duque were among those in Latin America who denounced the protesters, but both also said they were confident that American democracy and the rule of law would prevail.

“In this sad episode in the U.S., supporters of fascism showed their real face: anti-democratic and aggressive,” tweeted Luis Roberto Barroso, Brazilian Supreme Court justice and the head of the country’s electoral court. He said he hoped American society and institutions react with vigour to this threat to democracy.

Venezuela, which is under US sanctions, said the events in Washington show that the US is suffering what it has generated in other countries with its politics of aggression. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has survived US-backed opposition efforts to oust him despite accusations of human rights abuses, civil unrest and a humanitarian crisis that has forced millions to flee the oil-rich country.

Italians watched the events with shock, having always considered the US to be the model of democracy and the country that rescued Italy after its fascist descent during World War II.

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This is the widely anticipated outcome of Trumpism, tweeted a retired Italian center-left politician, Pierluigi Castagnetti. “And unfortunately it won’t end today. When politics is replaced by deception and fanaticism of the people the drift is inevitable.”

European Parliament President David Sassoli, who leads one of the largest legislatures in the world, also denounced the scenes at the Capitol.

The European Union has spent four cantankerous years dealing with the Trump administration, and its top officials have repeatedly said they are looking forward to a better relationship under President-elect Joe Biden.

(With inputs from agencies)