Sao Paulo, May 31 (efe-epa).- Groups supporting and opposing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro clashed on Sunday in violent disturbances amid the political and health crisis besetting the South American giant, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The most serious incidents occurred along Paulista Avenue in the heart of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, where the pro-Bolsonaro forces demanded the “closure” of both Parliament and the Supreme Court and a “military intervention” but encountered a huge opposition group that had gathered for a protest “in defense of democracy.”
Tensions rose among those aligning themselves with the “conservative values” proclaimed by the ultrarightist Bolsonaro as they confronted those demonstrating in favor of “democratic institutions” and against the “authoritarianism” they accuse the reserve army captain turned president, who was inaugurated in January 2019, of fomenting and pursuing.
The pro-democracy forces carried signs to that effect and were joined by the fans of several soccer clubs.
The demonstrations, convened in several cities around the country, come at a point where Brazil, with almost half a million confirmed coronavirus cases, finds itself in the No. 2 spot worldwide in terms of people infected with the virus and No. 4 in terms of deaths, with 28,834, according to the latest official tally.
Although there were incidents in other cities like Rio de Janeiro, the most serious violence occurred in Sao Paulo and left a number of people injured, including a photographer from Agencia EFE, Spain’s international news agency, Fernando Bizerra, who was hit in the leg by splinters from a small noise-bomb.
The day of protests amid the pandemic reflects the heightened temperature of the political debate in Brazil, turmoil whipped up by Bolsonaro and his followers with criticism of Parliament and the high court and heavy pressure against the quarantines of greater or lesser rigidity imposed by state governors and city mayors to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus and the sometimes deadly Covid-19 pneumonia often caused by it.
Also on Sunday, in Brasilia Bolsonaro attended an event organized by his supporters at which there were also harsh words for Parliament and the Supreme Court and calls for a military intervention to impose “order and progress,” the slogan on the Brazilian flag.
Bolsonaro made no remarks at the event, limiting himself to greeting and embracing many of those attending, lifting children in his arms and posing for selfies with the crowd, all without wearing a facemask, although doing so is obligatory for the general public in moving about the streets of the capital.
After greeting his some 3,000 followers participating in the event, the president headed over to a group of mounted policemen, got into the saddle on one of the horses and took the horse through the crowd, after which the throng dispersed without any further incident.
The demonstration came after, on Saturday night, a small group of ultrarightist activists who have been camping out for days in downtown Brasilia headed toward the Supreme Court building in a torchlit march.
In a scenario evoking neo-Nazi memories, dressed in black and some wearing facemasks, the demonstrators chanted slogans against the high court, which they accused of “yielding to communist interests.”
Bolsonaro and three of his sons who are active in politics are currently being investigated in several probes being pursued by the Attorney General’s Office and supervised by the Supreme Court.
The president is suspected of trying to illegally intervene in the Federal Police, an autonomous entity that is under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, the former head of which, Sergio Moro, has denounced those alleged irregularities.
On Saturday, Bolsonaro posted a series of messages on the social networks alluding to the problems his administration is having with the judiciary and complained – as he has been doing almost daily – about the treatment that the press, exclusively “leftist” in his opinion, is giving to the investigations that have tainted him, his sons and several allies.
Bolsonaro concluded his chain of online messages with the blunt phrase “Everything is pointing toward a crisis.”