Tensions grow in Brazil with protests in Brasília, São Paulo

. May 31, 2020
bolsonaro institutional problem (1) President Jair Bolsonaro borrowed a horse from the Military Police while meeting supporters. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

Another Sunday, another blatant anti-democratic provocation in defiance of social distancing measures in Brazil. Less than 24 hours after the country topped the mark of 500,000 Covid-19 infections, President Jair Bolsonaro joined protestors once more in the capital Brasília. The crowd — seemingly one of the largest since the beginning of the pandemic — demanded the total reopening of the Brazilian economy, as well as the shutdown of the Supreme Court and Congress. 

Mr. Bolsonaro was joined by his Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva, who recently endorsed threats against the Supreme Court made by the president’s chief security officer, retired Army General Augusto Heleno. Last week, Gen. Heleno stated that the Supreme Court could ignite “unpredictable consequences to national stability” should it try to seize Mr. Bolsonaro’s private cell phone as part of an investigation into whether the president illegally interfered with the Federal Police.

</p> <p>Inciting and attending protests against quarantines and democratic institutions have become part of the president’s weekend routine. Last week, Mr. Bolsonaro joined supporters in front of the presidential palace, making a speech in which he said “the federal government has <a href="">given all the support</a> to help people who have contracted the virus.” Previously, he had also defended pro-military intervention protests — only to issue a <a href="">half-hearted retraction</a> later.</p> <p>For the umpteenth time on his public forays, Mr. Bolsonaro failed to wear a protective mask — despite a state decree making them mandatory in public spaces.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p lang="pt" dir="ltr">&#8211; Estarei onde o povo estiver. <a href=""></a></p>— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) <a href="">May 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> <h2>Wave of protests in Brazil</h2> <p>While the president&#8217;s supporters took over the streets of Brasilia, members of organized football supporters group staged a pro-democracy protest in São Paulo&#8217;s iconic Avenida Paulista. The police were called upon to separate this movement from the weekly pro-Bolsonaro, anti-social isolation demonstrations, held every Sunday on the same avenue. As the opposing groups met, police used tear gas to scatter the crowds. One protester told CNN Brasil that the police were protecting the pro-Bolsonaro movement. &#8220;They have their guns aimed at us!&#8221; he said.</p> <p>The pro-democracy rally was organized by Gaviões da Fiel, the largest organized supporter’s club of Corinthians, São Paulo&#8217;s most popular football club — which has a history of <a href="">political engagement</a>. The Corinthians-led protest also included supporters of <a href="">fierce rivals</a> Palmeiras — it is the first time in recent history that organized supporters of both clubs, which have violently clashed on numerous occasions, have decided to march together.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="768" src="ão-paulo-protests-1024x768.jpeg" alt="democracy rally são paulo protests" class="wp-image-41136" srcset="ão-paulo-protests-1024x768.jpeg 1024w,ão-paulo-protests-300x225.jpeg 300w,ão-paulo-protests-768x576.jpeg 768w,ão-paulo-protests-1536x1152.jpeg 1536w,ão-paulo-protests-610x458.jpeg 610w,ão-paulo-protests.jpeg 2048w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Pro-democracy rally in São Paulo. Photo: Twitter/@niklas_franzen</figcaption></figure> <p>Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president&#8217;s second-eldest son, compared the pro-democracy protesters to terrorists. He retweeted a post in which U.S. President Donald Trump called the left-wing Antifa movement a &#8220;terrorist organization.&#8221; Mr. Bolsonaro suggested that &#8220;Brazil should do the same.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Here, they dress up as football fans, but we all know they want disorder, vandalism, and confrontation with peaceful demonstrations.&#8221;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p lang="pt" dir="ltr">O Brasil deveria fazer o mesmo. Aqui eles se fantasiam de torcida organizada, mas todos sabemos que querem é desordem, baderna e confronto com manifestações pacíficas. <a href=""></a></p>— Eduardo Bolsonaro🇧🇷 (@BolsonaroSP) <a href="">May 31, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Today&#8217;s demonstration showed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests spreading across the U.S. after the <a href="">killing of George Floyd</a>, a 46-year-old black man, by a Minnesota police officer. In Brazil, the anti-racist movement has also taken on the issue of police brutality in the country with the highest number of police killings in the world.</p> <p>As shown by <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>, black and multiracial people are <a href="">disproportionately killed by the police</a> in Brazil — with the death of João Pedro Mattos, a 14-year-old student shot by the Rio police while playing with his cousin, serving as the latest example. To make matters worse, <a href="">Covid-19 cases are more prevalent</a> among non-white Brazilians.&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">VIDEO: João Pedro, another 14-year-old boy killed by the Police in Rio. In 2019 alone, Rio police killed 1,814 people &#8211; an all-time record. Cops were responsible for one-third of violent deaths in Rio <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JoaoPedro</a> <a href=""></a></p>— The Brazilian Report (@BrazilianReport) <a href="">May 22, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async="" src="" charset="utf-8"></script> <h2>Amid pandemic, tensions are at the highest</h2> <p>Tensions among Brazil&#8217;s branches of government are reaching boiling point, making it perhaps the most delicate moment for the country’s democracy since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The situation is being aggravated by the entry of new and increasingly bizarre forces into the country’s political scene.&nbsp;</p> <p>On Saturday night, the armed <a href="">far-right group &#8220;Brazil&#8217;s 300&#8221;</a> took decidedly less than 300 people to march in Brasilia in protest against social isolation measures. Carrying store-bought tiki torches, in a clumsy homage to demonstrations of the Ku Klux Klan, the masked protestors chanted that the “Supreme Court won’t shut us up.”&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="683" src="" alt="Brazil Imitating U.S. white supremacy groups, Brazil's 300 call out the Supreme Court. Photo: Wallace Martins/Futura Press" class="wp-image-41135" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Imitating U.S. white supremacy groups, Brazil&#8217;s 300 call out the Supreme Court. Photo: Wallace Martins/Futura Press</figcaption></figure> <p>Modeled as a paramilitary group, the organization trains its members to “<a href="">defend the Bolsonaro government</a>,” as stated by its leader, the self-defined &#8220;ex-feminist&#8221; Sara Winter. After her home was raided by the Federal Police as part of an <a href="">investigation into pro-Bolsonaro fake news networks</a>, Ms. Winter called on her followers to start a “Free Sara Winter” campaign, despite the fact she has not been arrested.</p> <p>Over the weekend, Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello sent a message to his colleagues, comparing the current moment to the crumbling of the Weimar Republic in Germany, as Adolf Hitler became chancellor. &#8220;With all necessary caveats, the &#8216;serpent’s egg&#8217; seems to be ready to hatch, similar to what happened in the Weimar Republic,&#8221; he said.</p> <p>Just days ago, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro <a href="">said</a> a “rupture” is not a question of <em>if</em>, but <em>when</em> it will happen. On Twitter, the president himself <a href="">listed</a> a series of moves by democratic institutions against his administration, saying: &#8220;Everything points towards a crisis.&#8221;

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Augusta Saraiva

Augusta is a Brazilian journalism student at Northwestern University

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