Large crowds of protesters have returned to the streets of Brazil’s largest cities to demand the removal of a president they blame for more than half a million deaths from coronavirus.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday morning as calls for the impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro intensified after allegations that members of his government had tried to illegally profit from the purchase of Covid vaccines. .
“People have woken up,” said Benedita da Silva, a 79-year-old congresswoman and veteran of the Brazilian left, joining the rally.
“I’m here because we have to remove this monster from power and reclaim Brazil,” said Magda Souza, a 64-year-old dissident, as she marched through downtown Rio with her husband, José Baptisa. “We are surrounded by barbarism,” Souza added as a police helicopter flew over the crowd.
Souza wore a bright red T-shirt calling for the return of Bolsonaro’s left-wing antagonist, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who recently returned to the political scene after his political rights were restored and is expected to run for office. the presidency next year. . But many at the rally said they were not members of Brazil’s left and simply wanted to get rid of a far-right leader who they accused of condemning thousands of fellow citizens to death with his chaotic, and some now suspect that he is corrupt, response to the coronavirus.
On Friday, a supreme court judge ordered an investigation on whether Bolsonaro did not act after being alerted to high-level corruption suspicions involving the acquisition of millions of Covid vaccines from Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech. According to the official count, more than 522,000 Brazilians have lost their lives to the coronavirus, surpassed only by the United States, and the epidemic in the South American country is still far from being controlled.
Patricia Ribeiro, a 47-year-old registrar, said she had never attended a street protest before this, but had come to pay tribute to her brother, Pedro Ribeiro, who died in March after contracting Covid and spending eight days with a respirator.
“I blame the government for my brother’s death,” he said. “They behave as if our lives are worth nothing, as if human life is worth nothing.”
“He had so many dreams,” Ribeiro added about his brother, a single father who was about to graduate from college and leaves two children orphaned.
Daniel Melo, an 18-year-old student, came to remember his 86-year-old grandmother Conceição, who also died of Covid. “He went to the hospital and never came home,” Melo said, adding that he blamed Brazil’s “genocidal” president for failing to alert citizens to the dangers of the coronavirus, a disease Bolsonaro has called a “small flu.”
“I wanted to kill everyone,” said Melo.
Many protesters waved Brazil’s yellow and green flag, a symbol used by Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right movement, in an effort to reclaim the flag from his supporters.
“It is not their flag, it is the Brazilian flag and we are Brazilians. Brazil belongs to all of us. We are the children of this nation. We are patriots, just as they claim to be, ”said André da Silva, a left-wing activist from a social group called Movimento Favela Ação who was among those carrying the Brazilian flag.
Paulo Betti, a famous actor and director, was another of those who arrived with the green and yellow jota of Brazil. “We are here to honor the dead and declare: ‘We are alive!’” Said the 68-year-old, attacking Bolsonaro’s assault on the Brazilian Amazon.
“We cannot allow this destruction to continue,” said Sílvia Buarque, a well-known actress who said Bolsonaro needed to be immediately removed from office. “This pandemic has convinced me that we can’t wait to vote for it [in 2022]. “
The protests against Bolsonaro were reported to have taken place in many of Brazil’s most important cities, including Belém, Recife, São Paulo and Brasilia, as well as in European cities such as London, Barcelona and Dublin.
“The main objective is to bring down Bolsonaro,” said Maurício Machado, a 43-year-old waiter who arrived at the Rio rally wearing a face shield with the words: “Bolsonaro genocidal. Biological threat “.
“Bolsonaro is a biological threat, a political threat, a psychological threat and an extraterrestrial threat,” Machado said.
Guilherme Boulos, a prominent leftist and one of the organizers of the São Paulo rally, said that Covid’s corruption allegations had added to the already deep public anger against Bolsonaro. “For the first time I think impeachment is a real possibility,” Boulos said, celebrating the fact that right-wingers are now joining the protest movement.
Political observers are skeptical of Bolsonaro’s imminent disappearance and point to the opposition of Arthur Lira, the president of Brazil’s Lower House, to the impeachment trial. Lira would have to approve the start of the impeachment process and in Saturday’s demonstrations, the politician, who is a member of the powerful political bloc that supports Bolsonaro, found himself in the crosshairs of the protesters.. “Arthur Lira: accessory to the genocide,” read a banner.
Another sign simply read: “Vaccines, not bribes.”