Thousands of people began to gather on Sunday February 25 in Sao Paulo, in support of former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, enough to test his popularity in the midst of a scandal over suspicions of an "attempted coup d'état" .

Dressed in green and yellow, the colors of Brazil, demonstrators flock to Paulista Avenue, the emblematic artery of the largest metropolis in Latin America.

The former president is expected to speak at the rally, where organizers expect at least 500,000 people.

In several videos published in recent days on social networks, the former president (2019-2022) called on his supporters to a “peaceful rally in defense of the democratic rule of law”.

However, he is precisely the target of an investigation into a supposed “coup attempt” to stave off his electoral defeat in 2022, against the current left-wing president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In the crowd, Wilson Aseka, who traveled some 700 kilometers from the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, is certain that "Bolsonaro is an honest person, a victim of persecution."

The 63-year-old man, Brazilian flag around his neck, believes that it is "important to support him, because he represents God, the homeland and the family", the slogan of the former president.

On February 8, Jair Bolsonaro was banned from leaving Brazilian territory following a large-scale police operation which targeted several former close collaborators, including ex-ministers and high-ranking military personnel, with dozens searches and arrests.

Jair Bolsonaro, who says he is a victim of "persecution", remained silent on Thursday in the face of Federal Police investigators who had summoned him in connection with this affair.

He followed the advice of his lawyers, who say they did not have access to certain documents in the file.

But the former army captain loudly stated that he intended to "defend himself from the accusations" he faced during the demonstration in Sao Paulo.

He is also the target of other investigations, in particular for suspicion of falsification of vaccination certificates against Covid-19 or the alleged misappropriation of gifts received from foreign countries, including jewelry offered by Saudi Arabia.

Municipal election in October

Despite these scandals, Jair Bolsonaro is still considered the leader of the opposition, and remains adored by his supporters.

Even though he was declared ineligible until 2030 last year for disinformation, the ex-president intends to use his influence to elect allies during the municipal elections in October, in a country that is still very polarized.

On Paulista Avenue, beyond the influx of his supporters, the presence of opposition political figures should make it possible to gauge the extent of his support.

“If there is a lot of support, he will be able to say that the people are with him. Otherwise, he will lose all legitimacy,” said André Rosa, political scientist at the University of Brasilia (UDF). 

“On the 25th, I'm going to Brazil. It will be gigantic!”

published on X (ex-Twitter) MP Bia Kicis, from Bolsonaro’s Liberal Party.

The demonstration is organized among others by Pastor Silas Malafaia, very influential among the millions of evangelical Brazilians, one of the bases of the Bolsonarist electoral base.

Coming “in yellow and green”

Jair Bolsonaro asked his supporters to come “in yellow and green”, but “without bringing signs or banners against anyone”.

During his mandate, many demonstrations of support were marked by slogans against Brazilian institutions, notably the Supreme Court.

It was a judge of this high court, Alexandre de Moraes, who authorized the police operation as part of the investigation into the “coup attempt”.

On January 8, 2023, a week after Lula's inauguration, thousands of his supporters ransacked places of power in Brasilia, including the Supreme Court.

Israeli flags are also flying on Paulista Avenue, in a sign of disagreement with the remarks of Lula who last Sunday compared the Israeli offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust, provoking a diplomatic crisis with Israel.

With AFP

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