Bolsonaro Mixes With Crowds Again in Push to Reopen Economy

(Bloomberg) -- President Jair Bolsonaro escalated his campaign for the reopening of the Brazilian economy after he attended a protest against restrictive measures imposed by state governors to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

The Brasilia demonstration on Sunday, similar to others that took place in several Brazilian cities the same day, was organized by his more radical supporters -- some of whom demanded a military intervention in Congress and the Supreme Court, institutions that have mostly sided with the governors.

Bolsonaro Mixes With Crowds Again in Push to Reopen Economy

“We don’t want to negotiate anything,” Bolsonaro said in an improvised speech delivered from a flatbed truck, according to videos posted on social media. “We want action for Brazil.”

He had previously shared on Twitter a newspaper report about the growing number of Brazilians unable to pay their bills, saying it’s not difficult to guess what comes next if lockdown measures remain in place.

The far-right president, worried about the impact of a looming recession in Latin America’s largest economy, has defied medical guidance on social distancing, repeatedly mingling with the population and greeting supporters. He has urged Brazilians to resume work even as deaths from Covid-19, which he has called “just a little flu,” near 2,500. Last week, he fired his health minister after repeatedly clashing with him over the handling of the pandemic.

Authoritarianism

When leaving his official residence early on Monday, Bolsonaro said that he hopes this is the last week of lockdowns. Meanwhile, health officials say Brazil is probably still weeks away from the peak in Covid-19 cases. The state of Sao Paulo, the epicenter of infections in Brazil, has extended quarantine orders until May 10.

Bolsonaro also said Brazil is a democracy, and that he respects the constitution as well as bodies such as Congress and the Supreme Court. “My role is to preserve the people’s liberty without chaos,” he said.

Still, his attendance in a demonstration where participants called for the shutdown of democratic institutions caused outrage among political leaders and members of the top court.

“The whole world is united against the coronavirus,” Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, one of the main targets of Bolsonaro and his supporters, said in a Twitter post. “In Brazil, we have to fight against the coronavirus and the virus of authoritarianism. It’s a lot of work, but we’ll win.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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