Bolsonaro increasingly isolated as Brazil protests continue

Allies distance themselves from outgoing president following Lula’s victory

Supporters of Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro continued into a third day their protests in demand of a military coup following his defeat in Sunday’s presidential election.

Even after police moved to lift blockades, dozens of highways remained wholly or partially closed in at least 11 states while protesters also gathered in front of military bases in a number of cities on Wednesday calling for the armed forces to intervene against what they claim was election fraud.

Mr Bolsonaro has failed to explicitly condemn the mobilisation against the election result. In his only public statement since he lost to former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva he said the protesters were driven by “a sentiment of injustice” at the electoral process, only calling on them not to block the right of way.

But a supreme court judge said that after his brief statement on Tuesday afternoon, the president visited the court and told several of its members: “It’s over”. Mr Bolsonaro has become increasingly isolated as the protests, though able to hamper the free movement of people and goods around the country, failed to mobilise more than a fringe of his most radical supporters before the supreme court ordered police to crack down on them.


The court order to clear blockades came after left-wing organisations moved to take on the task themselves. In Angra dos Reis members of a metalworkers union cleared one roadblock while in São Paulo the homeless workers movement said it was preparing a mobilisation to lift the blockades. Groups of football ultras also cleared a number of roadblocks that were preventing them reaching mid-week football matches.

Mr Bolsonaro has also seen political allies move swiftly to recognise Mr Lula’s victory and seek to distance themselves from the mobilisation which federal prosecutors are demanding be investigated. While questioning the legitimacy of Mr Lula’s candidacy, outgoing vice-president Hamilton Mourão said in an interview yesterday that BMr olsonaro had agreed regardless to participate in the contest. “At this stage, there is no use crying, we lost the game,” he said.

In a further sign of the president’s lack of support, the former Bolsonaro minister Tarcísio de Freitas, elected on Sunday as the next governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous and richest state, travelled to the United States reportedly to avoid pressure from the president’s supporters to question the electoral outcome in which he emerged as a powerful new leader of the hard right.

In Brasília, Mr Lula’s team was pushing ahead with its transition planning after Mr Bolsonaro’s cabinet chief said he had been authorised by the president to facilitate the process which is enshrined in law.

Markets are closely watching for signals of who Mr Lula will choose as his finance minister. Whoever takes the job will be charged with tackling a huge fiscal deficit left by a pre-election spending splurge aimed at securing Mr Bolsonaro’s re-election.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America