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Opposition to Bolsonaro returns to streets aiming to attract non-leftist parties and avert violence

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The fourth round of national protests against Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, scheduled for this Saturday, July 24, aims to draw together more non-leftist party representatives and diversify the public, at a time when pressure for impeachment is suffering setbacks.

On Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, center parties seeking to break away from the PT will have their own sound trucks, seeking to attract demonstrators who oppose the president but do not want to be branded as leftists or supporters of ex-president Lula.

The timing of the march to run along Consolação Street and end at Roosevelt Square was brought forward in an attempt to avert the action of groups that have promoted vandalism in past rallies. This time, it will leave at 4:30 PM, with the aim of ending in the early evening.

Promoted by social movements and leftist parties, protests took to the streets in May, June and the first weekend in July – an extra date in the mobilization calendar, called after the disclosure of the first suspicions of corruption in the purchase of vaccines by the federal government.

Chamber president Lira, an ally of the Planalto, reiterates that there are not enough arguments to initiate proceedings against the president. (Photo internet reproduction)

The protest held on July 3 was also marked by attacks of far-left PCO party militants against center-left PSDB party members who participated for the first time in the demonstration on Paulista Avenue. The situation jeopardized the ideological expansion of the demonstrations, which had been slowly taking shape.

Despite the hostile incident, the municipal PSDB board decided to maintain their participation in the marches. Leftist leaders were initially silent or discreetly repudiated the violence. Although some leaders and politicians criticized the events, others remained silent.

The ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro Out) National Campaign, responsible for organizing the protests, only formally commented 9 days later in a statement claiming its demonstrations were peaceful.

“We repudiate any provocations or violent deeds that threaten the safety of protesters or give rise to the criminalization of our protest,” the text read. The PCO, which houses radicalized views, is part of the forum and opposes the joining of the right-wing.

According to a statement released by the campaign on Tuesday night, July 20, 192 protests have been confirmed in 187 cities in Brazil and abroad. The number is expected to grow by Saturday. On July 3, 352 protests were held in 312 cities in Brazil and another 35 abroad, in 16 countries.

Initially promoted by leftist parties such as PT, PSOL and PCdoB, protests have gained specific support mainly from representatives and local instances of other parties. PDT, Cidadania, Rede and PV, for instance, began to endorse the call in capitals like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

A few days ago, the PSB national directorate issued a resolution confirming the party’s participation in this Saturday’s event and denouncing the “very serious situation of Brazilian politics,” in which democracy and the lives of citizens are being “seriously threatened” by those who should be defending them.

The document, signed by the PSB national president, Carlos Siqueira, points out that the presence is recommended to militants who feel safe to be in crowds amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It also recommends wearing a mask and social distancing.

The presidents of Cidadania, Roberto Freire, and of PV, José Luiz Penna, had previously declared support for the protests and reiterated the precautions, in line with guidance from the organizers – who strive to avert comparisons with Bolsonarist demonstrations, often in defiance of the rules.

Members of the mobilization’s front line have consistently said that participation is open to any citizen or entity that agrees with the initiative’s main slogans: “out, Bolsonaro,” the call for more vaccines against Covid,-19 and support for a renewedd R$600 (US$115) monthly emergency aid.

However, in practice, partisan and electoral differences have been obstacles. The PSDB municipal president in São Paulo, Fernando Alfredo, was not authorized to speak in the national campaign sound truck, parked on Paulista Avenue opposite the MASP art museum.

This time, alongside parties such as PSB, Cidadania, Rede, and Solidariedade, PSDB will have its own space for speeches in a truck located outside the National Assembly. Center groups Acredito (I Believe) and Agora! (Now!) and student and union organizations will also be present.

The groups which present themselves as the “Democratic Bloc,” on Tuesday, July 20, released a note in which they classify Bolsonaro as a threat to the country and state that it is “time to unite Brazilians, irrespective of party and ideological colors, in the unyielding defense of democracy.”

The statement is also signed by parties and groups connected to the left. According to Marco Martins, coordinator of ‘Acredito’ who is committed to promoting dialogues, “the goal is for this to be a point where everyone, including repentant Bolsonaro voters, can join.”

One of the concerns is to prevent the new group from being interpreted as dissident or as a separate initiative.

Other legislators have pledged to organizers that they will attend. The state president of rightwing PSL, federal deputy Junior Bozzella, said that he will be present on Paulista Avenue again, as he was on July 3. A supporter of Bolsonaro’s election, he is now a detractor.

Since the first wave of protests, the president and his allies have used the majority presence of left-wing movements and parties to disparage the movement. They label the initiative as a Lula campaign event, which the demonstrators reject. Lula was never at the events.

At another point on the avenue, outside the Fiesp headquarters, a sound truck from labor union syndicates such as CUT (Central Workers’ Union), Força Sindical, UGT (General Workers’ Union) and CSB (Central of Brazilian Trade Unions) will be located.

In a statement also on Tuesday, the unions said that “everyone’s presence in the rallies is increasingly necessary” to pressure Chamber of Deputies president Arthur Lira (PP-AL) to schedule debate on one of the over 100 impeachment motions lodged in the House.

“Only the masses in the streets will prevent the authoritarian adventures that president Bolsonaro has insinuated, such as that he may prevent the holding of the 2022 elections or not accept the results of electronic ballot boxes in case of defeat,” they said.

UGT’s president Ricardo Patah said that he will take to the avenue his dissatisfaction with the plan to raise the resources for next year’s electoral fund from R$2 billion to R$5.7 billion. However, the cause is not part of the agendas deliberated by the central leadership.

The proposal that the event on Paulista Avenue should be static, without a march to Roosevelt Square, was discussed in recent days as an alternative to mitigate the action of isolated groups that earlier this month broke windows, destroyed bus stops and set fire to dumpsters on Consolação Street.

The plan was eventually discarded given the realization that movement provides greater visibility to the demonstration and extends its duration. However, instead of setting off from the avenue at around 6 PM, as in the past, the marchers will leave at 4:30 PM so that the demonstration may disperse earlier, at sunset.

According to Raimundo Bonfim, one of the mobilization leaders, the challenge is to “attract more people from the periphery and popular sectors.” “We believe that there will be a greater number of people joining now. There was a longer gap in relation to the last protest,” the coordinator of the CMP (Central of Popular Movements) said.

Raimundo said that internal resistance to the joining of non-leftist groups is a settled issue. “We condemn the violent deeds and have worked with PCO, stating that the campaign does not support any attacks against militants from any political party,” he said.

Unwilling to join the marches led by the left, the ‘Movimento Brasil Livre’ (Free Brazil Movement – MBL) and the ‘Vem Pra Rua’ (Come to the Street – VPR) groups have scheduled a separate national protest for September 12 to demand Bolsonaro’s impeachment. The call has the support of right-wing non-Bolsonarist politicians, notably Novo and PSL party members.

The MBL and the VPR, which ruled out taking to the streets under the official justification that holding marches at the height of the pandemic was dangerous, refrained from joining the previous protests also because they differed from parallel agendas raised by the demonstrators, such as criticism of the privatization agenda.

Despite drawing together left and right-wing political groups, the campaign for Bolsonaro’s removal has been repeatedly discouraged by the president of the Chamber. Lira, an ally of the Planalto, reiterates that there are not enough arguments to initiate proceedings against the president.

According to a Datafolha poll conducted this month, 54% of Brazilians want proceedings to be initiated, compared to 42% who reject the idea. It was the first time since the institute began asking about the topic in April 2020 that the majority of respondents said to be in favor of proceedings to oust the current president.

Source: Folha

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