Bolsonaro Cheers on New Protest With Brazil Virus Toll Mounting

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Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro greeted a pro-government rally in the capital on Sunday, risking a new bout of political tension as the country’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak nears 7,000.

Bolsonaro waved to crowds of chanting supporters who gathered in front of the presidential palace in defiance of social distancing recommendations, according to a recording lasting more than one hour posted on hisFacebook page. They protested against the nation’s top court and Congress, set off fireworks and, at one point, draped a large Brazilian flag over the ramp leading down to the street.

The president, who wasn’t wearing a face mask, said the protest was “spontaneous” and showed support for liberty and democracy. He said the population wants a government that can work without interference in support of Brazil’s future.

“You know that the people are with us,” Bolsonaro said. “The Armed Forces, who are on the side of law, order, democracy and liberty, are also on our side.”

Bolsonaro’s remarks come as his administration faces crises on multiple fronts. On Saturday, former Justice Minister Sergio Moro testified to law enforcement about Bolsonaro’s alleged pressure to interfere in police operations. Meanwhile, the local coronavirus death toll is showingno signs of slowing, and the pandemic has delivered a devastating blow to the economy which, by some estimates, will shrink by more than 5% this year.

Some of Sunday’s protesters criticized Moro and the nation’s Supreme Court, while some called for the ouster of lower house Speaker Rodrigo Maia. On April 19, Bolsonaro had attended another protest against social distancing measures where some people also demanded military intervention.

Read more:Bolsonaro Mixes With Crowds Again in Push to Reopen Economy

Eight Hours

Moro’s testimony involving the president lasted more than eight hours, and he turned over his phone including texts and audios from Bolsonaro and other ministers, according to local media.

His deposition is part of a probe into whether Bolsonaro committed crimes including corruption and identity fraud related to his decision to fire the federal police chief last month. The president has called the accusations unfounded.

Read more:Bolsonaro in the Crosshairs of Brazil’s Top Court: A Quick Guide

Still, Brazil’s Supreme Courtblocked the president from nominating Alexandre Ramagem, a close ally, to replace the police head. Bolsonaro, who later withdrew the nomination, said he will name another person for the post on Monday. The federal police is currently carrying out a number of investigations that could potentially implicate the president’s family.

“I pray to God that we don’t have any problems this week because we’ve reached the limit. There’s no more talking.” Bolsonaro said on Sunday. “From now on, we won’t just demand, but we will also make sure the constitution is upheld. It will be upheld at all cost.”

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