Brazil’s Bolsonaro ignores social distancing advice, takes part in protests

Brasilia, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- Brazil’s president once again ignored social distancing recommendations amid the coronavirus pandemic and took part in several demonstrations by his supporters in cities across the country on Sunday.

In an address to his supporters from atop a pickup truck, Jair Bolsonaro once again spoke about the fight against “old politics” and the “patriotic” spirit of the Brazilians.

In Brasilia, Bolsonaro addressed hundreds of supporters who, after taking part in a motorcade against quarantine and social distancing measures, gathered outside the Army Headquarters to call for a military intervention by the leader against the legislature and judiciary.

Bolsonaro did not wear a mask or gloves although he avoided direct physical contact as he had done during another demonstration by his supporters in front of the presidential Planalto palace, when he lowered the ramp and waved to his supporters and, far from taking action to disperse the gathering, encouraged it.

The right-wing leader, who has already tested negative for COVID-19 after a trip to the United States early March, had repeated coughing fits on Sunday, without being mindful of those accompanying him, including advisers, lawmakers and bodyguards.

The far-right politician’s supporters carried posters and shouted slogans such as “Military Intervention with Bolsonaro,” “Out, Maia” – referring to the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia -, and even alluded to “AI-5,” the authoritarian decree issued by the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

“Now it is the people in power…We don’t want to negotiate anything,” said the leader, who has repeatedly ignored health recommendations issued to contain the pandemic and even gone as far as to call coronavirus “a little cold” or a “little flu” at the start of the outbreak.

Subsequently, the head of state also criticized the mandatory lockdown imposed by states such as Sao Paulo, the most populous in the country with 46 million inhabitants, which accounts for almost half of the 2,462 reported coronavirus deaths, and recommended quarantines for only at-risk populations.

These moves put Bolsonaro at loggerheads with his former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, whose handling of the pandemic has garnered widespread support, according to polls, but who ended up stepping down this week and was replaced by oncologist Nelson Teich.

Hundreds of Bolsonaro’s supporters convened demonstrations on Sunday, the country’s national Army’s Day, in support of the far-right leader and against the Congress, the Supreme Court and some governors opposed to the head of state with regard to the coronavirus.

Currently, there are 38,654 COVID-19 cases in the country.

In Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro’s supporters organized at least two motorcades, from Ibirapuera Park and some upper-class neighborhoods to the central Avenida Paulista, where hundreds of demonstrators protested against the governor, Joao Doria, a former ally of the president.

In addition to these two motorcades in Brazil’s largest city and those in Brasilia, demonstrations in support of the federal government and against local authorities were also staged in some interior cities in Sao Paulo state and other regional capitals such as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, Natal and Porto Alegre. EFE-EPA


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