Leaders and citizens around the world reacted with alarm to images of a mob supporting President Trump forcing its way into the U.S. Capitol, calling it a shocking development in one of the world’s most stable democracies.
From Europe to Latin America and Asia, politicians, citizens and dignitaries watched with dismay—and even disbelief—as pro-Trump rioters pushed their way past guards and into the building, halting debate over the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the riot by his supporters.
“Unfortunately, President Trump did not accept his defeat since November, not even yesterday, and that has naturally created an environment that enabled such violent events,” she said Thursday.
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, appeared to draw a parallel with Hitler’s power grab: “Violent actions come from inflammatory words—on the steps of the Reichstag and now in the Capitol,” he said, in reference to the burning of republican Germany’s parliament building in 1933. “Disregarding democratic institutions has devastating consequences.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a longtime Trump ally, tweeted: “Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. 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.”
Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization and a former Norwegian prime minister, described the scenes as shocking. “The outcome of this democratic election must be respected,” he said.
In China, there was no official reaction early Thursday, but state media used the chaotic scenes to question the U.S.’s role as a model of democracy for the world. CCTV News broadcast a commentary, saying Mr. Trump’s supporters had ripped the last fig leaf from U.S. politicians pretending that the country was a democracy. “American-style democracy is being disgraced and bankrupted before the world,” the commentary said.
Other Chinese state media drew parallels with the protests in Hong Kong. On Twitter, the English-language feed for nationalist tabloid Global Times quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had said a year ago that the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong were “a beautiful sight to behold,” and goaded her to pass the same judgement on Wednesday’s events.
Closer to the U.S., Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his official Twitter account that Canadians are “deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy” in Washington.
“Violence will never succeed in overruling the will of the people. Democracy in the US must be upheld—and it will be,” Mr. Trudeau tweeted.
But in Toronto, some people came out to support Mr. Trump. Starting late Wednesday morning and into the afternoon, supporters created a motorcade about two blocks long that snaked through downtown and past the U.S. Consulate, according to local media reports. The supporters flew Trump banners and American flags, according to posts on social media.
In Latin America—a region with a history of turbulent politics that is all too familiar with presidents who undercut democratic norms to maintain their grip on power—the images of protesters forcing their way into the Capitol shocked politicians and residents who once looked to the U.S. as a model of stability and rule of law.
Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderon, said the U.S. was seeing “the fruits of populist discourse” from Mr. Trump, “which begins by withdrawing recognition of the truth, and manipulates people’s political resentments, and goes on to delegitimize the rule of law.”
“I am sure the U.S. will stop this craziness; I only hope it’s not too late,” he said.
Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, a former president of Bolivia, where large, violent protests rocked that country in 2019 forcing then-President Evo Morales to resign and flee abroad, called Wednesday “a sad end for President Trump and a profound deterioration of the democratic image of the country.”
In Brazil, members of Congress for the leftist Workers’ Party took to Twitter on Wednesday, expressing their horror over the events unfolding in the U.S., while policy analysts raised fears that a copycat attack could happen next year in the Latin American country’s presidential election.
Full Coverage: The Storming of the Capitol
Political analysts in Latin America say the ordeal could make it harder for the U.S. to promote democracy in the region. That includes in Venezuela, where Mr. Trump’s efforts to oust autocratic leader Nicolas Maduro have failed.
Indeed, leaders of countries that the U.S has criticized for human-rights violations and failure to respect the rule of law didn’t hesitate to point a finger back at the U.S. on Wednesday.
In Venezuela, where the government has jailed political opponents and used mobs of armed gangs called colectivos to attack critics, the leaders said they were concerned about political violence in Washington.
Diosdado Cabello, a powerful figure in the Maduro regime, wrote on Twitter, “I’ll be brief: the U.S.A., what a disaster.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova refrained from independently commenting about the events in Washington on her Facebook page, but shared a Facebook post from Jill Dougherty, a Russia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“The United States will never again be able to tell the world that we are the paragon of democracy,” Ms. Dougherty wrote on Facebook.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the world’s largest democracy, said he was distressed about the rioting.
“Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue,” he said in a tweet Thursday morning. “The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”
In Japan, the chief government spokesman, Katsunobu Kato, said, “I hope that American democracy will overcome these difficult circumstances and restore social order and cooperation, and that a peaceful and democratic transition of power will proceed.”
—Sha Hua in Hong Kong and William Boston in Berlin contributed to this article.
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