By Carlos A. Moreno
Rio de Janeiro, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- Caravans of motor vehicles and bicycles were organized in dozens of Brazilian cities on Saturday to press a demand for the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brazil, a nation of 210 million people, is second only to the United States in deaths from Covid-19, with some 215,000 fatalities, and No. 3 worldwide in cases behind the US and India, which has more than 1 billion inhabitants.
The processions, conceived as a socially distanced alternative to marches, were organized by labor unions and grassroots groups to call on Congress to take up one of the 57 impeachment motions against Bolsonaro filed by members of the lower house.
“With these caravans we demonstrate that it is possible to go into the street to protest despite the pandemic. This government has already committed too many crimes against the Brazilian population and we cannot remain silent,” Carmen Foro, leader of the giant CUT labor federation, said Saturday.
The far-right president has become an obstacle to Brazil’s efforts to surmount the pandemic, according to a statement from the organizations that promoted Saturday’s mobilization.
“Even with more than 215,000 deaths from Covid, Bolsonaro continues to deny the seriousness of the pandemic, positioning himself against vaccination and reducing resources for health. He did absolutely nothing in the face of the collapse of Manaus due to lack of oxygen,” the groups said.
The public health system in Manaus, the largest urban center in the Amazon region, has been overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients and has struggled to obtain enough oxygen to treat the most severe cases.
Bolsonaro continues to criticize social distancing and mask-wearing while denigrating the efficacy of vaccines.
Critics also fault the president for ending the direct payments initiated last year to aid people left without income as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic.
“As if the record level of unemployment were not enough, the president extinguished the emergency aid that was the only source of income for thousands of workers,” caravan organizers said.
Poll results published Friday show that Bolsonaro’s approval rating has dropped to 32 percent, while 42 percent of respondents said they disapproved of his performance in office. Yet 53 percent opposed the idea of impeaching the president.
The current speaker of the lower house, Rodrigo Maia, says that while Bolsonaro should be held accountable for his mismanagement of the pandemic response, an impeachment now would only deepen the paralysis of the federal government at a time of crisis. EFE cm/dr