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Brasil President joins the Anti-lockdown protest


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defended his participation in a public protest against coronavirus lockdown measures, saying that he was not calling for military action against the country's other branches of government. Sunday's protest, which was held in Brasilia outside the army's headquarters, gathered dozens of Bolsonaro supporters wearing the country's emblematic yellow and green. Large signs, including one reading "military intervention with Bolsonaro in power," were visible in a livestream of the event posted to the president's personal Facebook page. In the video, Bolsonaro can be seen at the rally without a mask waving at the crowd and coughing at times. "I'm here because I believe in you. You are here because you believe in Brazil," Bolsonaro said during the live stream, while standing on top of a white pickup truck.

The rally was a protest against quarantine measures imposed by some state governors, Bolsonaro said at a press conference on Monday outside the Alvorada presidential residence in Brasilia. Mr Bolsonaro has clashed in recent weeks with state governors who have imposed lockdowns, denouncing the measures as "dictatorial". As of Sunday, Brazil had more than 38,000 confirmed cases, the highest number in Latin America. More than 2,400 people there have died. As well as demanding an end to the lockdown, some of those attending the rally also held up signs calling for Brazil's Congress and the Supreme Court to be closed down.

Others said they wanted the military to take over the handling of the coronavirus crisis. Brazil was under military rule for more than two decades from 1964 until 1985 and calls for the armed forces to be given more power are highly controversial. While the president did not make any reference to those demands at the time, his appearance at the rally - at which people were calling for the closure of the country's democratic institutions - was labelled "provocative" by his critics. On Monday, however, while talking to journalists, Mr Bolsonaro quickly responded to one of his supporters who called for the closure of the Supreme Court by stating that Brazil was a democratic country. He said that the nation's top court, as well as Congress, would remain open. Journalists have noted that at Sunday's rally the president neither wore a face mask, even though he coughed on occasion, nor gloves - precautions which many other politicians in the region are taking. He has in the past dismissed coronavirus as "little more than a flu".

Rodrigo Maia, the president of Brazil's Lower House of Congress, wrote on Twitter that the "whole world is working together in the fight against coronavirus. In Brazil, we have to fight against corona and authoritarianism. It's harder work, but we will prevail. In the name of the Lower House of Congress I condemn any act that defends dictatorship or acts against the Constitution." Brazil has more than 40,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 2,575 deaths, according to a Health Ministry update.

Bolsonaro has said that he expects 70% of Brazil's population to become infected and that the quarantine measures imposed by governors in some of the hardest-hit states, like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are not working. "I hope this is the last week of this quarantine," Bolsonaro said. "The masses can't afford to stay home because the refrigerator is empty."

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