Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday (Apr. 20) argued for the Supreme Court and the National Congress to be “open and transparent.” After leaving the Alvorada residence this morning (20), he talked to supporters about his participation in a rally outside the Army headquarters in Brasília on Sunday, when Army Day was celebrated.
Protesters carried posters and banners calling for a shutdown of Congress and the Supreme Court as well as the return of the so-called Institutional Act 5—usually referred to as AI-5, used in the military regime to punish dissidents and oust Congress members.
On the occasion, after waiving at hundreds of people, the president made an address standing on a pickup bed. “I’m here because I believe in you. You are here because you believe in Brazil. We don’t want to negotiate anything. What we want is action for Brazil. What was old has been left behind. We have a new Brazil ahead of us. Everyone in Brazil—no exception—must be patriotic and have faith, and do their part so that we can bring Brazil to the prominent position it deserves. The days of roguery are over. The people are in charge now,” he declared.
Today, after being challenged by a supporter who urged for Congress to be closed, Bolsonaro responded: “You don’t close Congress. This is democracy. This is respect for the Brazilian Constitution. This is my house, and your house. So please do not say such a thing here. The Supreme [Court must] be open and transparent. Congress [must be] open and transparent,” the president stated.
“There’s someone infiltrated in every movement. People have freedom of expression. Respect freedom of expression. Look at my speech. It’s just two minutes long. I didn’t say anything against any other branch—on the contrary. We want to get back to work. The people want to get back to work. They were there greeting the Brazilian Army, that’s all. Anything other than that is just made up, an attempt to put a nation that’s within normality under fire,” Bolsonaro argued.
An advocate of loosening social distancing measures, the president once again criticized the decision made by some state governors. “Everything done in excess ends up causing a problem,” he said. According to the president, lockdown rules in some states have not met their goal. “I hope this is the last week of lockdown, of this way of combating the virus, with everyone at home. The mass can’t stay at home, because the fridge is empty,” he said.
“Approximately 70 percent of the population will be infected, there’s no escape from that. It’s a fact. Are you afraid of the truth?” he said.
The messages seen at the demonstration calling for Congress and the Supreme Court to be shut down and the return of AI-5 prompted responses among representatives from the Judiciary and Legislative branches, governors and social institutions, and even old allies.
Lower house speaker Rodrigo Maia, one of the main targets of the demonstrators, on behalf of the Chamber of Deputies, condemned “any act advocating dictatorship—a conduct that violates the Constitution.”
The National Association of Federal Prosecutors (ANPR) also voiced concerns over “the demonstration of groups across the country arguing for a shutdown of the Supreme Court and the National Congress and the return of AI-5.” “The democratic march is an achievement in civilization that makes no room for setbacks. Without democracy, liberties and citizenship cannot materialize; there are no individual or social rights, no fight against corruption. The defense of the democratic regime and its pillars is, therefore, the duty of all of Brazilians society, and the main mission of the Prosecution Service,” the association stated.
On Twitter, Supreme Court justices criticized the rally. “It’s frightening to see demonstrations calling for the return of the military regime, after 30 years of democracy. To defend the Constitution and the democratic institutions is part of my role and my duty,” said Justice Luiz Roberto Barroso.
Another judge, Justice Gilmar Mendes, said the crisis stemming from the novel coronavirus “can only be overcome with political responsibility, union, and solidarity.”
Also on Twitter, Justice Marco Aurélio Mello referred to demonstrators as “inopportune nostalgics” and said an authoritarian trend is on the rise in Brazil. “There’s no room for setbacks. The airs are democratic and should stay democratic. A totalitarian vision is worthy only of the highest form of excommunication,” he stated.
Several state governors, including those of the three state hardest hit by the pandemic—São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Ceará—also expressed their opinion. São Paulo Governor João Doria decribed the president’s conduct on Sunday as “regrettable.” “It’s regrettable that the president supports an antidemocratic act, an affront to democracy, including praise for AI-5. I also repudiate the attacks on the National Congress and the Supreme Court. Brazil needs to overcome the pandemic and preserve its democracy,” he said.
In the view of Wilson Witzel, governor of Rio de Janeiro, “instead of having the president encourage the population to go against governors and control a large network of fake news to destroy our reputation, we should see him take care of the health of Brazilians. We’re moving forwards with our mission to tackle COVID-19.”
Ceará’s Camilo Santana regarded the Sunday protests in Brasília as “unacceptable and repugnant.” “Brazil will not bow to this kind of threat,” he declared.
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