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Rio de Janeiro to host two events on Independence Day

Rio de Janeiro Independence Day
Independence Day celebrations in Brasília last year. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

The city of Rio de Janeiro will hold two separate events on September 7, the bicentennial of Brazil’s independence from Portugal, neither of which are the beachside military parade that President Jair Bolsonaro had been pushing for.

Rio usually holds a military parade on the Avenida Presidente Vargas downtown to commemorate Independence Day. This year, President Bolsonaro wanted to move the military extravaganza to the Avenida Atlântica promenade that lines Copacabana Beach. But Rio City Hall resisted, and last week Mayor Eduardo Paes said the Army had informed him that there would be no parade at all.

The president’s sustained attacks on Brazil’s electoral system and his calls to his supporters to turn out en masse at Independence Day events stoked fears that the September 7 demos might morph into a military-backed uprising — or that, at the very least, Mr. Bolsonaro would turn the Rio military event into a political rally.

Instead of a parade, the Armed Forces will hold a commemorative event – featuring a gun salute and aerial display – at the Copacabana Fort, a beachside military base that was the site of a 1922 military rebellion. Mr. Bolsonaro will still get his beachside political event with a campaign rally planned on the Avenida Atlântica, but it will be separate from the military-led Independence Day celebrations. 

The city is expected to be busy as it will also host the Rock in Rio music festival that week.

Rio de Janeiro is Mr. Bolsonaro’s political home, and he won the election by a large margin in the state in 2018. This year, polls put presidential frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ahead — but Lula’s lead in Rio state tends to fall within the margin of error, suggesting Mr. Bolsonaro could still turn the tables.