Friday, November 26

Thousands of People Gather for Pro-Bolsonaro Demonstrations as Critics Fear for Democracy | Brazil

Thousands of staunch supporters of Jair Bolsonaro have gathered in Brazil’s political and economic capitals in hopes of putting on a colossal show of support for their embattled president amid growing fears about the future of Brazilian democracy and possible skirmishes with opponents of the government.

The right-wing nationalist, who recently warned that Brazil could face a political “rupture”, is expected to address well-attended Independence Day rallies in Brasilia and São Paulo on Tuesday in what observers say is an every political attempt. weaker time to project force.

Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have plummeted in recent months as allegations of corruption have ensnared a succession of allies and family members and a congressional investigation has savagely attacked his government’s response to a killing Covid outbreak. almost 600,000 Brazilians. Polls suggest that nearly two-thirds of Brazilians now oppose Bolsonaro’s presidency and that former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would defeat him in next year’s elections.

“These are the death throes of a government in agony,” Alessandro Molon, a congressman from the leftist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), said of the demonstrations planned for Tuesday.

But Bolsonaro still enjoys substantial support, particularly among evangelical Christians and in Brazil’s central agricultural areas and the Deep South. As they arrived in Brasilia from all over the country, in buses, trucks and planes, those disciples said they were determined to defend a leader whose chances of re-election next year seem increasingly fragile.

“Man, I am immensely happy to be here because we are here to make our country a better place and get these corrupt people out,” said Orlandino Mendes Valentim, 54, who had driven 700 miles from the city of Mantena to the capital. in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

“We thank God that a man like Bolsonaro came to fight on our corner,” Valentim said as he strolled through the political center of Brazil’s futuristic capital on Monday afternoon, passing street vendors selling T-shirts depicting Bolsonaro with military uniform and with the English. slogan: “Make Brazil great again.” He added: “We don’t want to become a kind of Venezuela or Argentina.”

Valentim’s traveling companion, Custódio Marques Junior, said that he had come to fight for the future of his children and grandchildren and to make Brazil more like the United States, where he is a citizen and has lived for many years. He brandished a bright yellow T-shirt stamped with the words: “Dated com Bolsonaro” (We are with Bolsonaro).

“Tomorrow is about our freedom. It is September 7th. ‘Independence or death!’ Marques said, citing the cry attributed to then-Prince Regent Dom Pedro when he proclaimed Brazilian independence from Portugal in September 1822.

Valentim insisted that Tuesday’s demonstration on the esplanade of ministries in Brasilia, the heart of the government in Latin America’s largest democracy, would be peaceful. “Bolsonaro’s voters are people of peace,” he said.

But there are growing fears that there may be spasms of violence, as staunch supporters of the Brazilian president for guns take to the streets. Before the demonstrations, a Bolsonarist extremist posted a video online from outside the Supreme Court in which he urged its president to use “gunpowder” against his “rotten” judges.

There is a particular concern that in Brasilia, right-wing radicals may clash with left-wing protesters or thousands of indigenous activists who have camped near Congress since last month to protest against efforts to roll back their land rights.

Others fear that Bolsonaro will try to seize dictatorial powers by staging an auto coup, or wonder if September 7 could turn out to be a Brazilian version of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Bolsonaro’s political inspiration, Donald Trump. Addressing a congress of Bolsonaro supporters in Brasilia on Saturday, the son of former US President Donald Trump Jr allegedly urged delegates to resist the imposition of “tyrannical governments.”

Molon, the left-wing congressman, said his party had advised members to stay home to avoid violence that would give Bolsonaro a pretext to send in the army. “Bolsonaro needs chaos. He is the lord of chaos, ”Molon said. “Clashes or conflicts are all you want to be able to summon the armed forces.”

A Bolsonaro supporter in front of the presidential palace
A Bolsonaro supporter outside the presidential palace. His allies say fears that he is causing chaos are overblown. Photograph: Adriano Machado / Reuters

Ruth de Aquino, a columnist for O Globo newspaper, said she feared the president was deliberately seeking to provoke a “pandemonium” that would help him cover up Brazil’s bleak economic outlook, a severe energy crisis and his blunder with Covid. “Bolsonaro is trying to divert attention from this chaos by doing the only thing he knows how to do: cause chaos and upheaval,” he said.

Supporters of Bolsonaro, a 66-year-old former army captain who gained power in 2018 as part of a backlash against the system, say those fears are overblown.

“He is a raging bull that might hurt you at first because he is wild and you cannot tame wild animals. But it’s a bull that we needed to unleash to shake up this country a bit, ”said Elves de Sousa, a 41-year-old evangelical pastor who plans to join a pro-Bolsonaro rally in the midwestern city of Sinop.

Sousa said that corruption had taken root so deeply in previous governments that only a radical figure like Bolsonaro could fix things, even though Bolsonaro’s allies and sons have been implicated in a series of recent corruption scandals. “We needed a madman. With the utmost respect for our president, I think we needed someone like him, someone radical, to change this, ”said Sousa.

Molon said he had no doubt that Bolsonaro, who has publicly expressed his admiration for authoritarians, including former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, harbored desires to end the democratic system that brought him to power. “He has never kept it from anyone.”

But the congressman doubted that Brazil’s president had the support to do so this week and believed that Tuesday’s rallies were more of a desperate attempt to project the power Bolsonaro no longer enjoyed. “He is doing this because he is cornered. He has realized that the near future holds electoral defeat and jail, for him and his children, “said Molon. “It is the reaction of a cornered animal.”

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