TOKYO: Teargas and bullets in the US Capitol building. Outrage, confusion and condemnation from leaders across the world.
“What is happening is wrong,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. “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.”
The chaotic scenes from the storming of the building at the center 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.
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.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is saddened by the events at the US Capitol,” UN 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, D.C., have been terribly distressing. They are very concerning,” Morrison told reporters shortly after the U.S. Congress resumed proceedings late Wednesday Washington time.
“This is a difficult time for the United States, clearly. They’re a great friend of Australia, and they’re one of the world’s greatest democracies. And so … our thoughts are with them and we hope for the peaceful transition to take place,” he said.
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 U.S. 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 US Capitol.
“Disgraceful scenes in US Congress,” tweeted Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, a staunch U.S. 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 U.S. 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. “From inflammatory words come violent deeds.” He added that “contempt for democratic institutions has disastrous effects.”
“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 Sebastian Pinera and Colombian President Ivan 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 US, 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 vigor to this threat to democracy.”
Venezuela, which is under U.S. sanctions, said the events in Washington show that the U.S. “is suffering what it has generated in other countries with its politics of aggression.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has survived U.S.-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.
In Puerto Rico, many people took to social media and joked that the U.S. territory no longer wanted statehood. Independence, they said, looked appealing for the first time in decades.
In fact, that pursuit of independence marked one of the last times the U.S. Congress was stormed violently. Four members of Puerto Rico’s Nationalist Party opened fire on the House floor in March 1954, wounding five lawmakers.
Italians watched the events with shock, having always considered the U.S. to be the model of democracy and the country that rescued Italy after its fascist descent during World War II.
“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.
“This is insurrection. Nothing less. In Washington,” tweeted Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden.
Turkey, a NATO ally that has sometimes been at odds with Washington, expressed concern over the images of angry Trump supporters trying to thwart the certification of Biden as the new president.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement urged all parties in the United States to use “moderation and common sense.”
“We believe that the United States will overcome this domestic political crisis with maturity,” the ministry said.
The ministry statement also urged Turkish citizens in the United States to stay away from crowds and demonstrations.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was “deeply disturbed“ by the events in the U.S., Canada’s closest ally and neighbor.
“Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld _ and it will be,” Trudeau tweeted.