Brazil’s Bolsonaro rallies supporters in Rio

By Thomson Reuters Apr 21, 2024 | 3:44 PM

By Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Luana Maria Benedito

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday rallied thousands of supporters in Rio de Janeiro in a bid to raise his political capital after losing a bid for reelection to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in October 2022 and facing allegations of involvement in a coup.

Images shared on social media and broadcast by the media showed a large crowd of Bolsonaro supporters, many wearing Brazilian football jerseys.

Organizers of the demonstration estimated attendance at 100,000 people. Authorities did not release a tally.

Right-wing Bolsonaro, the subject of police probes before and during his four years in office, is facing an investigation into his alleged role in a campaign to undermine faith in Brazil’s voting system, which culminated in a Jan. 8, 2023, insurrection by thousands of his supporters in Brasilia, the capital.

On Feb. 8, police seized Bolsonaro’s passport and accused him of editing a draft decree to overturn the results of the 2022 election, pressing military chiefs to join a coup, and planning to jail Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

“Have you seen the draft decree? Neither have I,” Bolsonaro told reporters on Sunday. “I want to see it, the people want to see it and so does the press.”

The former president, who cannot run for office until 2030, said his government never played “outside the four lines of the Constitution.”

Last month, Brazil’s federal police formally accused Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic during the COVID-19 pandemic, of tampering with his vaccination records, opening the door to criminal charges.

On Sunday Bolsonaro also used the opportunity to praise Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla and owner of the social media platform X, whom Bolsonaro called a defender of free speech. Bolsonaro urged the crowd to give the billionaire “a round of applause.”

After Musk said he would challenge a decision by Moraes ordering X to block certain accounts, lawyers representing Musk told Brazil’s Supreme Court that X would comply with every ruling issued by the court or Brazil’s top electoral court, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Monday.

Moraes is investigating “digital militias” that have been accused of spreading fake news and hate messages during the government of Bolsonaro.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro and Luana Benedito in São Paulo; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Leslie Adler)