Why Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro joined a protest calling for a military coup

“In a head-spinning political maneuver, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined demonstrations held in Brasilia on Sunday to protest coronavirus-related lockdowns and to call for a military coup.

Political observers say the protesters were right-wing Bolsonaro supporters who called for military intervention on behalf of the president because they view the country’s supreme court and legislature as obstacles to his campaign against pandemic lockdown measures, despite the fact that the country has more than 35,000 confirmed cases and over 2,300 deaths as of April 19.

“Now it is the people in power. It’s more than your right — it’s your obligation to fight for your country,” Bolsonaro said, standing on a pickup truck outside the Army headquarters. “We don’t want to negotiate anything. We want action for Brazil.”

Political commentators say it’s unlikely that Bolsonaro literally hoped to foment a coup with his incendiary remarks outside the Army headquarters, but rather saw the protest as an opportunity to mobilize his political base. The president has become increasingly isolated politically due to his resistance to approaching the pandemic in accordance with medical and scientific advice, and clashes with politicians issuing quarantine orders at the state level.”

“Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the virus, calling it a “little flu” and arguing that Brazilians are well-suited for it because they can be dunked in sewage and “don’t catch a thing.” The president has also frequently defied social distancing guidelines from his own administration, and has opposed lockdowns initiated by governors of states, accusing them of exploiting the pandemic for political gain.” 


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