Thousands of protesters in Brazil call for Bolsonaro’s impeachment

Huge crowds parade through Rio to voice outrage at president’s Covid response

Tens of thousands of protesters have returned to the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities to demand Jair Bolsonaro’s impeachment, as a poll showed the Brazilian president’s ratings had plumbed new depths.

Huge crowds paraded through downtown Rio on Saturday to voice their outrage at Bolsonaro’s response to a Covid outbreak that has killed nearly 600,000 people and dealt a heavy blow to the South American country’s economy.

"We have come to shout at the top of our voices: Bolsonaro's place is behind bars," Carlos Lupi, the president of Brazil's Democratic Labour party, told thousands of flag-waving demonstrators who had gathered outside Rio's municipal chamber under a ferocious midday sun.

“This crook who uses the Bible to trick the people... This worm! This wretch! He must go to jail!” Lupi bellowed to cheers of approval.


Jandira Feghali, a congresswoman from the Communist party of Brazil, urged Bolsonaro's opponents to form a broad cross-party coalition against the president's "fascist" administration. "600,000 lives have been lost," Feghali told the demo. "We can wait no longer. It is time for us to scream out loud: 'Bolsonaro out!'"

All morning dissenters had streamed into Rio’s historic centre, from across Brazil’s second-largest city and from all walks of life.

‘In tatters’

Renato Bezerra de Mello came with a group of artist friends, each of whom wielded a lacerated yellow and green Brazil flag. "This is how we feel about the state of our country. It's in tatters," the 61-year-old artist said.

“He’s an odious figure,” De Mello said of Bolsonaro, whom a record 58 per cent of Brazilians now oppose according to a poll released on the eve of the protest. “He is the tip of the iceberg of what is worst in all of us.”

Antonia Pellegrino, a writer whose grandfather was a key figure in the fight against Brazil's 1964-85 dictatorship, said she was attending her first anti-Bolsonaro rally since the coronavirus pandemic began, having recently been vaccinated.

“It’s invigorating and it is essential for us to be out in the streets to halt the process of destruction that our country is going through,” Pellegrino said as a column of protesters marched down Rio Branco avenue.

Jose Manuel Ferreira Barbosa, a decorator from Belford Roxo, a city on Rio's rundown northside, said he had come to protest unemployment, soaring inflation and the spread of hunger that he blamed on Bolsonaro.

“The president has cut taxes on rifles but not for basic food,” said the 63-year-old, who carried a banner that read: “Rifles no, food yes.” “We cannot remain silent,” Barbosa said of the social calamity unfolding in Brazil.

Despite growing opposition to Bolsonaro – a right-wing radical who critics accuse of destroying Brazil’s economy, environment and place in the world – he retains a hardcore support base of about 20 per cent of voters.

The pro-Trump former paratrooper also continues to enjoy control of congress, thanks to a deal with a powerful and infamously self-seeking coalition of centre-right parties called the “centrão”.

Unlikely prospect

That support means impeachment remains an unlikely prospect unless the growing ranks of Bolsonaro’s foes can pull together to remove him from office before next October’s presidential election, which polls suggest the incumbent would lose to any of his potential challengers.

On Saturday prominent opposition leaders lined up to urge such unity.

Ciro Gomes, a centre-left former minister who intends to run for president, said Bolsonaro's impeachment would only be possible if the opposition's 120 representatives in congress could win over conservative allies. "Bolsonaro is a serial criminal who is attacking democracy and has killed hundreds of thousands of Brazilians," Gomes said, before shouting: "Bolsonaro out!"

As he marched through downtown Rio, Alessandro Molon, the opposition leader in the lower house of congress, said massive street protests were crucial to show that most Brazilians now wanted Bolsonaro gone. Another major mobilisation is due to be held on November 15th.

“We have to show in the streets what the polls have already shown in numbers – that the overwhelming majority of Brazilians will no longer tolerate the misrule that has caused 600,000 [Covid] deaths and has destroyed the Brazilian economy and Brazil’s international reputation,” Molon said.

“We are occupying the streets to give visibility to the silent majority that can no longer bear Bolsonaro.” – Guardian