World

Bolsonaro draws supporters to rally amid coup denials

The former Brazilian president is being investigated over his alleged role in attacks on government buildings following election loss.

Former President Jair Bolsonaro addresses supporters during a rally in Sao Paulo (Andre Penner/AP)
Brazil Bolsonaro Former President Jair Bolsonaro addresses supporters during a rally in Sao Paulo (Andre Penner/AP) (Andre Penner/AP)

Tens of thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro rallied in Brazil’s biggest city on Sunday to defend him against legal challenges that could put him in jail.

The far-right leader told the crowd he seeks “pacification to erase the past,” taking a more conciliatory tone than when he was in office.

Mr Bolsonaro is seeking to show his base is resilient while he is investigated by federal police over his alleged role in the January 8 2023 attacks on government buildings by his supporters over his election loss.

Followers of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rally to express their support for him in Sao Paulo (Andre Penner/AP)
Brazil Bolsonaro Followers of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rally to express their support for him in Sao Paulo (Andre Penner/AP) (Andre Penner/AP)

The former president, who is also accused of illegally receiving jewels from Saudi Arabia during his term in office, wants the dozens of people still in jail for those incidents to get pardons.

Six blocks of Paulista Avenue filled with Bolsonaro supporters, many of them saying that he is being persecuted by Brazil’s Supreme Court and that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva unfairly won his narrow victory in the 2022 election.

Some carried Israeli flags as a show of defiance to the current president, who has received widespread criticism at home for comparing Israel’s military offensive in Gaza to the Holocaust.

“What I seek is pacification, it is erasing the past,” said Mr Bolsonaro in a speech as he held an Israeli flag. “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.”

Former President Jair Bolsonaro waves an Israeli flag as he addresses supporters, accompanied by his wife Michelle (Andre Penner/AP)
Brazil Bolsonaro Former President Jair Bolsonaro waves an Israeli flag as he addresses supporters, accompanied by his wife Michelle (Andre Penner/AP) (Andre Penner/AP)

He denied that he and his supporters attempted a coup when rioters assaulted government buildings a year ago.

“What is a coup? It is tanks on the streets, weapons, conspiracy. None of that happened in Brazil,” he said.

Mr Bolsonaro is barred from running for office until 2030 due to two convictions of abuse of power, but he remains active in Brazilian politics as the main adversary for left-of-center Lula.

Workers’ Party chairwoman Gleisi Hoffmann was one of the few high-profile adversaries of the former president to make comments about the Sao Paulo event.

She said on social media: “When he speaks about amnesty for those sentenced for the riots of January 8, Bolsonaro aims at his own impunity. He cannot defend interests that are not his own.

“We should not have any complacency with coup mongers, starting from their boss.”