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Thousands of Brazilians have taken to the streets in their cars to demand Jair Bolsonaro’s impeachment as polls showed support for the far-right president slipping over his shambolic handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday, as Brazil’s official Covid-19 death toll hit 216,000, leftwing and centrist protesters organised motorcade rallies in more than 20 state capitals, including Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Belém.
The leftwing leader Guilherme Boulos told objectors parading through São Paulo the rallies signalled the start of “a popular uprising against this genocidal government”.
“We’re here to announce that we aren’t going to wait until [the next presidential election in] 2022, because lives are at stake. Now’s the time to defeat Jair Bolsonaro,” Boulos told the car-bound dissenters. “He’s going to leave the presidency and go straight to jail.”
On Sunday, rightwing groups held their own pro-impeachment events, including in Barra da Tijuca, a bastion of Bolsonaro support in west Rio.
An online petition being promoted by conservative former supporters has attracted more than 180,000 signatures in three days. “President Bolsonaro is a curse on Brazil and … it’s up to us, the people, to secure his removal,” it says, accusing the president of endangering thousands of lives with his anti-scientific response to Covid.
Lucas Paulino, a lawyer who helped organise a rally in Belo Horizonte, said demonstrators were driven by the horrifying healthcare collapse happening hundreds of miles north in the Amazon. In recent days dozens of patients have died in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, after a surge in Covid infections and a catastrophic lack of planning caused hospitals to run out of oxygen. Brazil’s health minister, Eduardo Pazuello – whose critics call him “Pezadello” (nightmare) – travelled to the city only to promote bogus “early treatments” such as hydroxychloroquine.
“That really showed us the extent of the federal government’s dereliction of duty and denialism towards the Covid pandemic,” said Paulino, 32, a regional leader for a progressive political group called Acredito (I Believe).
“The feeling that this negligence, this anti-democratic extremism, this denial of science, this omission, this glorification of authoritarianism, can no longer be allowed to continue was trapped in the throats of many Brazilians,” Paulino added.
Political journalist João Villaverde, a columnist for the magazine Época, said the drive-by demos – the first significant outdoor mobilisations since the pandemic began – suggested opposition to Bolsonaro was entering a new and unpredictable phase with the potential to end his presidency.
He said: “These protests show our politicians that Brazilian society has reached such a level of anger and annoyance with the state of affairs provoked by the utter ineptitude of Bolsonarismo, that it’s willing to protest even in the middle of a pandemic. This hadn’t happened before.
“Alright, they were motorcades, with protesters in cars. But it shows society is on the verge of exploding.”
Bolsonaro suppporters, who claim their opposition to coronavirus containment measures is designed to protect Brazil’s economy, played down the protests. The president’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro, a politician, attacked what he called the “villainous media” for over-egging what he described as embarrassingly small demonstrations.
Villaverde, who has studied Brazil’s history of impeachments, said he believed that two years into his four-year term Bolsonaro was on the ropes.
“We are now very, very close to the moment in which all the conditions exist for an impeachment process to happen,” Villaverde said, pointing to Brazil’s Covid-battered economy, the existence of multiple impeachable offenses linked to the pandemic, and shaky support in congress.
Still lacking were sustained street protests and a greater meltdown in public support that would convince members of congress to abandon Bolsonaro. On Friday one of Brazil’s leading pollsters, Datafolha, claimed rejection of Bolsonaro had jumped by 8% while support had fallen from 37% to 31%. An impeachment process would become more likely if that number fell to about 20%, Villaverde said.
The coming weeks could prove significant to Bolsonaro’s political survival, with emergency coronavirus benefit payments from the government set to end on Wednesday.
“We are on the cusp of a very, very severe social problem,” said Villaverde. “Millions and millions of Brazilian men and women are going to be left incomeless right in the middle of a second wave when we’ve already got 15 million unemployed.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Brazilian motorcade rallies demand Bolsonaro’s impeachment | Jair Bolsonaro