Thousands of Brazilians rally in support of Bolsonaro amid coup probe

Brazil’s former president gathers supporters in a bid to demonstrate political strength as investigations into alleged coup attempt gather pace.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro rallies with his supporters on Sao Paulo's Paulista Avenue
Brazil's former president, Jair Bolsonaro, rallies with his supporters on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 25, 2024 [Carla Carniel/Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Brazilians have rallied in support of former President Jair Bolsonaro amid a probe into allegations that he tried to orchestrate a coup following his election loss in 2022.

Bolsonaro, who called the rally in Sao Paulo after being targeted by a police raid earlier this month, denied the coup charges on Sunday and hit out an election ban that has seen him barred from seeking office for eight years.

“What is a coup? Tanks in the streets, weapons, conspiracy. None of that happened in Brazil,” Bolsonaro told his supporters, who filled up six blocks of Sao Paulo’s iconic Paulista Avenue.

“We cannot accept that an authority can eliminate whoever it may be from the political scene, unless it is for a fair reason,” he said.

Supporters of the Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro take part a protest in Paulista Avenue
Supporters of the Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro take part a protest in Paulista Avenue [Carla Carniel/ Reuters]

Federal police in Brazil seized the former president’s passport earlier this month after accusing him of editing a draft decree to overturn election results following his electoral loss to leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2022.

They also say he pressured military chiefs to join a coup attempt and plotted to jail a Supreme Court justice.

The former army officer is also facing several other investigations, such as the falsification of COVID-19 vaccination certificates, and the alleged misappropriation of gifts received from other nations, such as jewellery offered by Saudi Arabia.

Separately, hundreds of Bolsonaro’s supporters were also arrested and face charges for invading and ransacking Brazil’s presidential palace, Supreme Court and Congress on January 8, 2023, a week after Lula took office.

Bolsonaro said on Sunday that he was being “persecuted” and that his draft decree was based on the constitution.

He also called for amnesty for people who took part in the January 8 riot.

“What I seek is pacification. It is erasing the past,” Bolsonaro said. “It is to seek a way for us to live in peace and stop being so jumpy. Amnesty for those poor people who are jailed in Brasilia. We ask all 513 congressmen, 81 senators, for a bill of amnesty so justice can be made in Brazil.”

While Bolsonaro is barred from running for office until 2030 due to two convictions of abuse of power, he remains active in Brazilian politics as the main adversary for left-of-centre Lula. As this year’s mayoral elections loom, candidates have split between the two leaders.

Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew, reporting from Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro called the rally to demonstrate his political strength.

“All these people around me, and there are thousands of them, have come to show support for Jair Bolsonaro. They are dressed in yellow and green, which are the colours of Brazil. We haven’t seen such a rally since January 8, 2023, when there was the uprising,” she said.

“Bolsonaro called this rally because he has been facing a whole series of legal battles, and he risks being imprisoned. Bolsonaro wants to show that he is still popular and can be a kingmaker in the upcoming municipal elections in October.”

Bolsonaro and his supporters also waved Israeli flags at the protest, in a rejection of Lula’s recent remarks comparing Israel’s offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies