By Alba Santandreu
Sao Paulo, Sep 12 (EFE).- Thousands of people took to the streets all across Brazil on Sunday to demand the ouster of President Jair Bolsonaro, but the demonstrations served to show the lack of unity among the opposition despite the escalating threats against democratic institutions being made by the ultrarightist leader.
The demonstrations held in a number of state capitals around the country, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, featured the protesters’ demand for Bolsonaro’s impeachment with an eye toward removing him from the presidency, but they also included an assortment of other demands.
The marches on Sunday sought to counteract the massive protest with anti-democratic overtones staged on Sept. 7 by Bolsonaro and tens of thousands of his followers around the country, but mainly in Brasilia and Sao Paulo.
The anti-Bolsonaro gatherings, however, showed notably smaller attendance.
At the ultrarightist protests that he attended in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, Bolsonaro sought to stage a show of force, once again verbally attacked the country’s democratic institutions and urged his supporters to disobey rulings and decisions by the Supreme Court, an exhortation that the opposition interpreted as threatening a “coup.”
After the president’s speeches, which took a hard line against the legislative and judicial branches of government, but sparked vehement and widespread criticism, he then found himself forced to publish a Letter to the Nation in which he urged “harmony” and guaranteed that he would “never … attack” either the high court or Parliament, a clear attempt to ratchet down the institutional crisis that he himself had sparked.
Bolsonaro’s support for the Sept. 7 demonstrations were the motivating force behind the protests on Sunday, which were convened by the political center and the right under the slogan “Bolsonaro, Out.”
Attending the protests were politicians from across the Brazilian political spectrum who tried to set their ideological differences aside to express their rejection of the ultrarightist president, a reserve army captain who has expressed his admiration for the military dictatorship that governned Brazil from 1964-1985.
Among the politicians attending Sunday’s protests were former presidential candidate Ciro Gomes, with the center-left Democratic Labor Party, and Sao Paulo Gov. Joao Doria, with the center-right social democrats, one of Bolsonaro’s main opponents among the country’s conservatives.
“Whoever is a democrat in Brazil must understand that (Bolsonaro’s) impeachment is the only way out,” said Gomes, who pushed for the “unity” of all democratic forces against the president.
“We desperately need to strike an agreement between the right and the left,” he added.
But despite the support of a wide range of progressive political groupings, the leftist Workers’ Party of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – who governed from 2003-2010 – one of the main opposition forces, did not back the protests on Sunday due to still-open wounds.
The Workers’ Party, among other reasons, also did not participate in the demonstrations because they were sponsored by the Free Brazil Movement (MBL) and by Vem Pra Rua, which in 2016 mobilized millions of people around Brazil to exert pressure for the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff, Da Silva’s protoge for former chief of staff, who ultimately was ousted by Congress.
Both movements also defended searching for a candidate other than Lula to go up against Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential election, which are forecast to be a bitter contest between the two main figures in Brazilian politics.
With a little over a year to go before the presidential vote, no other presidential contender has yet emerged in voter surveys and the public opinion polls at this point are predicting that the highly popular former union leader will defeat Bolsonaro, who has already been suggesting that he will not recognize the election results if he loses.
To express their rejection of both men, however, some demonstrators on Sunday inflated on Sao Paulo’s Avenida Paulista enormous balloon figures of Bolsonaro in a straightjacket and Lula wearing prison stripes, alluding to the 580-day prison term he served for money laundering and corruption, a sentence that was overturned in 2019, thus allowing his political rights to be restored.