Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Brazil’s largest cities to demand the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro for his catastrophic response to a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly half a million Brazilians.
Protesters traveled to more than 200 towns and villages in what is the biggest anti-Bolsonaro mobilization since the start of the Covid epidemic in Brazil
“Today is a decisive step in the battle to defeat the genocidal administration of Bolsonaro,” said Silvia de Mendonça, 55, a civil rights activist from the United Black Movement of Brazil as she led a column of protesters in the run down downtown Rio.
Osvaldo Bazani da Silva, a 48-year-old hairdresser who lost his younger brother to Covid-19, said: “We can no longer lose Brazilian lives. We have to take to the streets every day until this government falls.
In Rio, many protesters carried homemade signs in remembrance of loved ones they have lost to an epidemic that has killed nearly 460,000 Brazilians, the second highest official death toll in the world after the United States. United. “I am here in his memory,” said Luiz Dantas, 18, holding a photo of his grandfather, Sebastião, who died in February at the age of 75.
“The culprit has a first and second name,” said Dantas, referring to the far-right president of his country who has repeatedly trivialized the coronavirus as a “little flu” and sabotaged containment efforts such as the social distancing or blockages.
“I want justice,” the teen added, shedding tears as he spoke.
Irene Grether, a 69-year-old psychoanalyst who was also present at the protest, said two relatives have died as a result of her government’s inaction. “This government is more dangerous than the virus,” she said as thousands of protesters gathered near a statue in remembrance of anti-slavery resistance leader Zumbi dos Palmares.
Grether’s niece, a 46-year-old economist called Ana Paula Carvalho, said she believed Bolsonaro should be brought to trial in The Hague International Criminal Court “for crimes against the Brazilian people”. “It promotes death and destruction,” she said. “Bolsonaro is a Brazilian tragedy. “
Bolsonaro has defended his response to the pandemic, saying his fierce opposition to the lockdown is designed to project Brazilian livelihoods and jobs. But Carvalho said that by allowing the virus to spread uncontrollably – and failing to acquire enough vaccines – Bolsonaro destroyed the economy, as well as lives. “Today, the Brazilian people have the choice between dying of the virus or of hunger,” she said.
Saturday’s protests – which have also taken place in major cities such as São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Recife and the capital Brasilia, as well as in many smaller towns – come with Bolsonaro at its lowest level since taking office in January 2019.
Polls suggest growing anger at the right-wing populist’s handling of Covid, with 57% of the population now supporting his impeachment. A congressional investigation is currently dissecting Bolsonaro’s calamitous response to the public health crisis with damaging revelations about his government’s conduct broadcast on the news nightly.
Bolsonaro seems particularly shaken by the re-emergence of his political rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former leftist president who appears ready to challenge him for the presidency in next year’s elections. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Lula, whose political rights were recently restored, said he had no doubts that the Brazilian people would “free themselves” from Bolsonaro in 2022. “He could have avoided half of those deaths. Lula said of Bolsonaro’s reaction. at Covid.
Roberto Anderson, a 67-year-old university professor and environmentalist who attended Saturday’s march, said he felt encouraged by the large turnout which suggested the tide was finally turning against Brazil’s radical right-wing leader.
“People are waking up. A lot of the people who voted for Bolsonaro are now faltering… and the politicians who support him are always opportunists – the moment they see people organizing, they will also switch sides, ”Anderson said.