For These Brazilians Lula Lost the Election and Brazil Is a Dictatorship

Hundreds of thousands of people clad in Brazilian national team jerseys waving flags of the South American country and also of Israel gathered Sunday at Sao Paulo’s Paulista Avenue to support former President Jair Messias Bolsonaro.

He has been disenfranchised until 2030 and his passport has been seized by the Supreme Federal Court (STF), thus banning him from traveling abroad except to neighboring nations where his ID card would be a valid document.

The root bolsonarista believes that the Avenida Paulista gathered 700,000 people ( 150,000 people is a more credible number) to hear Bolsonaro defend himself against the accusation that he planned a coup with the aim of annulling the results of the 2022 presidential election.

This same crowd doubts that more than 700,000 people died in Brazil as a result of the way the Bolsonaro administration dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. They seem to believe only news received via WhatsApp from other “patriots” like themselves.

According to polls taken at Avenida Paulista almost all of the demonstrators believe that Brazil is going through a “dictatorship” under the Lula government. And Lula has never won the presidential elections.

Bolsonaro is under investigation for his alleged involvement in the January 8, 2023, uprising in Brasília, which authorities claim was an attempted coup d’état against President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

But “what is a coup?” Bolsonaro asked his followers Sunday. “There are tanks in the street, there are weapons, there is a conspiracy… None of that was done in Brazil,” he argued.

A week after Lula took office on January 1, 2023, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters stormed the presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court, urging the military to overturn what they claimed was a stolen election.

Bolsonaro, who was in the United States at the time, denied any responsibility while investigators allege months of anti-democratic maneuvers to discredit Brazil’s electronic voting system with a “disinformation” campaign ahead of the elections to “legitimize a military intervention” if he lost.

The 68-year-old retired Army captain was himself wearing a national football team shirt and holding an Israeli flag in his right hand in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the October 7, 2023, attacks by the terrorist group Hamas.

Lula was critical of Hamas’ actions but dubbed Israel’s counteroffensive “a genocide,” which prompted a diplomatic rift between the two countries to the point that the current South American head of state was declared “persona non grata.”

Bolsonaro’s rally was perceived as a demonstration of political muscle given the barrage of legal charges against him for berating the electoral electronic system and reportedly accepting undue gifts in the form of jewels from Saudi Arabia or forging a Covid-19 vaccine certificate, among other cases. Many of his followers have been convicted after the January 8 events. For them, Bolsonaro requested a pardon.

At a regional level, Lula was backed by Presidents Gustavo Petro of Colombia and Luis Arce Catacora of Bolivia. Chile is also at a diplomatic standoff with Tel Aviv, while Bolsonaro stands on the opposite side of the political spectrum with his intention to move the Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem following in on the footsteps of former President Donald Trump, whom Argentina’s Javier Milei also seeks to imitate.

“We can still do a lot for our country,” Bolsonaro told the crowds as he stood alongside former First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, São Paulo Governor Tarcísio de Freitas, and Pastor Silas Malafaia, in addition to several lawmakers and other authorities.

The former head of state insisted he was being persecuted and his followers said “there may be riots” if he is incarcerated. Malafaia warned that, if the courts order Bolsonaro’s imprisonment, it would not be for the former president’s destruction, “but for theirs.”

Bolsonaro also stressed that “it cannot be accepted” that “opponents” be disqualified, which applies both to him and to Venezuelan opposition leader María Corina Machado in a phrase that implicitly likened Lula to Nicolás Maduro.

“We cannot accept that a power eliminates whoever it may be from the political scene unless it is for a fair reason. We cannot think about elections removing opponents,” he said.

“I seek pacification, to erase the past and find a way for us to live in peace,” he went on in line with previous calls on his followers on social networks to a “peaceful demonstration in defense of the democratic rule of law” to defend himself against “all accusations.”



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