on Monday 26 February, 2024

Thousands of Brazilians pour into streets to denounce coup probe against ex-president Bolsonaro

Supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro attend a rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on February 25, 2024, to reject claims he plotted a coup with allies to remain in power after his failed 2022 reelection bid. © Nelson Almeida, AFP
by : AFP

Thousands of Brazilians poured into the streets of Sao Paulo on Sunday after ex-president Jair Bolsonaro called for a show of support as he faces accusations he plotted a coup to stay in power.

Dressed in the green and yellow of Brazil’s flag, which Bolsonaro claimed as a symbol while in office, an immense crowd of his supporters thronged Paulista Avenue, one of the main arteries in the country’s economic capital.

Bolsonaro arrived waving the Israeli flag—a rejection of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s remarks comparing Israel’s offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust—before putting his hand to his chest for the national anthem.

The 68-year-old former army officer had urged his backers to attend a “peaceful rally in defense of the democratic rule of law” in the economic capital Sao Paulo which organizers hope will draw at least 500,000 people.

Bolsonaro has had his passport seized by police as he and his inner circle face scrutiny over plans to try to remain in power after he lost 2022 elections to Lula.

‘Victim of persecution’

The far-right former president Bolsonaro has denied the accusations and he refused to answer questions during a half-hour interrogation Thursday at federal police headquarters in Brasilia.

“Bolsonaro is an honest person, a victim of persecution,” said 63-year-old builder Wilson Aseka, who travelled 700 kilometers (430 miles) from the state of Minas Gerais to attend the protest.

“It is important to support him, because he represents God, country and family,” he added, repeating the former president’s motto with a Brazilian flag hanging on his shoulders.

A week after Lula took office on January 1, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court, urging the military to intervene to overturn what they called a stolen election.

Bolsonaro, who was in the United States at the time, denies responsibility, and has even suggested the protesters were not really his supporters.

However, investigators allege months of anti-democratic maneuvers by Bolsonaro, from a plan to discredit Brazil’s electronic voting system with a “disinformation” campaign ahead of the elections to “legitimize a military intervention” if he lost.

Police say Bolsonaro edited a draft presidential decree that would have declared a state of emergency, called new elections and ordered the arrest of Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, the head of Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal.

They also released a video of a July 2022 meeting where a shouting, swearing Bolsonaro ordered cabinet ministers to help him discredit the election system.