Brazil on the brink as Bolsonaro supporters demand army intervene to overturn defeat

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Thousands of supporters of ousted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have urged the country’s military to intervene to keep the controversial right-winger in power after his defeat in Sunday’s Presidential election run-off. Mr Bolsonaro – edged out by challenger Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – has yet to concede defeat – but has so far given no indication he intends to contest the result either.

Large crowds gathered in the rain outside the Eastern Military Command in Rio de Janeiro, one of the army’s eight regional headquarters, many of them raising clenched fists in the air as they brandished Brazil’s green-yellow-and-blue flags and sang the national anthem.

Some chanted, “Armed forces, save Brazil!” and “United, the people will never be defeated!”

Elsewhere, truck drivers who for several days maintained roadblocks across the country in protest against Mr Bolsonaro’s defeat were still out in force, defying a Supreme Court order to dismantle them.

The demonstrations came despite international recognition of da Silva’s victory and a recommendation from the Brazilian Supreme Court that Mr Bolsonaro accept the results of Sunday’s election.

Cabinet members, governors-elect and evangelical leaders who have been vociferous supporters of Bolsonaro are now offering overtures to the incoming leftist government.

The military has taken on an ample role under Mr Bolsonaro, 67, himself a former army officer, but has remained silent in the month since the first round of the election.

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Eduardo Munhoz Svartman, president of the Brazilian Association for Defence Studies, said: “In a democracy, the armed forces do not have a say in the electoral process. This silence is desirable.”

Mr Bolsonaro lost to da Silva in a tight contest, winning 49.1 percent of the vote compared with da Silva’s 50.9 percent. It was the tightest presidential race since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985, and marks the first time Mr Bolsonaro has lost an election in his 34-year political career.

The outgoing president took almost two days to address the nation, and there had been speculation that he might fight the result after repeatedly questioning the reliability of the country’s electoral system before the election in a similar way to US President Donald Trump in 2020.

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In a speech at the presidential residence lasting less than two minutes on Tuesday, he said he would continue to obey the constitution while encouraging protests by his supporters, provided they remained peaceful.

Immediately afterward, his chief of staff told reporters Mr Bolsonaro had authorised him to begin the process of handing over power, while later in the day the president reportedly told members of the Supreme Court that his election battle against da Silva had come to an end.

Much like former Mr Donald Trump, whom Mr Bolsonaro openly admires, he has claimed, without providing evidence, that electronic voting machines are prone to fraud.

Many of his supporters are likewise questioning the results, and truckers who back the president have erected hundreds of blockades around the country to protest the election’s outcome.

On Wednesday morning, highway police said that they had removed 630 blockades, with more than 150 still in place.

At one roadblock in Sao Paulo state on Tuesday, protesters set tires on fire with huge lines of cars could be seen snaking along the highway.

Sao Paulo Governor Rodrigo Garcia said yesterday the time for negotiations was over.

He added that he was not ruling out the use of force to dismantle the barriers.

However, Mr Bolsonaro supporters continued to resist and users on social media, including in multiple Telegram and WhatsApp chat groups, shared demands that the military take the streets, or that Congress and the Supreme Court be disbanded and the President remain in office.



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