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Brazil: protests intensify; Bolsonaro is silent

The two men were sitting at a bar on November 21, sipping drinks to cool off from the state’s scorching heat. Brazilian Mato Grossowhen police officers stormed in and arrested them for allegedly setting fire to trucks and an ambulance with Molotov cocktails.

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One of the individuals attempted to flee and dispose of his illegal firearm. Inside their pickup truck the cops they found containers with gasoline, knives, a pistol, a slingshot and hundreds of stones, as well as 9,999 reais (almost $1,900) in cash.

A federal judge ordered his preventive detention, noting that the apparent motive for the violence was the “dissatisfaction with the results of the last presidential elections and the search for its undemocratic revocation”, according to court documents examined by The Associated Press.

For more than three weeks, supporters of the president Jair Bolsonaro Refusing to accept their narrow defeat in the October elections have blocked roads and camped in front of military buildings in Mato Grosso, the largest producer of soybeans in Brazil. They have also protested in other states of the country, and have requested the intervention of the armed forces or that their commander-in-chief give them orders to act.

Since his electoral defeat, Bolsonaro He has only addressed the nation on two occasions, to say that the protests are legitimate and to encourage them to continue, as long as they do not impede the free movement of people.

The president has not repudiated the recent surge in violence either. However, he has contested the electoral results, something that Alexander de Moraesthe president of the electoral authority, said it seems aimed at fueling the protests.

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Although most of the demonstrations are peaceful, the strategies employed by some radicalized participants have begun to worry the authorities.. Jose Antonio Borgesstate attorney general in Mato Grosso, compared his actions to those of guerrillas, militia groups and internal terrorists.

Mato Grosso is one of the hotbeds of agitation in the country. The main targets, Borges says, are soy trucks from Grupo Maggi, owned by a magnate who announced his support for the president-elect. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. There are also signs that people and companies in the state may be stirring up protests elsewhere.

Roadblocks and acts of violence have been reported in the states of Rondônia, Pará, Paraná and Santa Catarina. In the latter, the federal highway police indicated that protesters blocking roads have used methods “terrorists”, which include homemade bombs, fireworks, nails, stones and barricades made from burning tires.

The police also noted that the roadblocks over the weekend were different from those carried out immediately after the second round of elections on October 30, when truckers blocked more than 1,000 roads and highways across the country. On that occasion only isolated incidents were recorded.

Now, most of the acts of resistance are taking place at night, carried out by “extremely violent and coordinated hooded men”which act in different regions of the state at the same time, said the federal highway police.

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“The situation is becoming very critical” in the state Mato Grosso, state attorney Borges told the AP. Among other examples, he noted that protesters in Sinop, the state’s second most populous city, this week ordered shops and businesses to close in support of the movement. “Whoever does not close suffers reprisals”he added.

Bolsonaro has not appeared in public since the vote and his daily schedule is largely empty, sparking speculation that he is upset or up to something.

The work for the government transition has been led by his office chief, and the vice president Hamilton Mourao has intervened to preside over official ceremonies. In an interview with the newspaper O Globo, Mourao He attributed Bolsonaro’s absence to erysipelas, a skin infection on his legs that he said prevents the president from wearing pants.

But even Bolsonaro’s social media accounts have remained silent, save for generic posts about his government, apparently made by his communications team. And the live broadcasts on social networks that, with few exceptions, he hosted every Thursday night during his administration have ceased. The silence marks an abrupt turnaround for the bombastic Brazilian president, whose legions of supporters hang on his every word.

In any case, the protesters, who have camped out in front of military barracks in various parts of Brazil for weeks, they are sure they have his tacit backing.

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“We understand perfectly well why he does not want to speak: they (the media) distort his words”, said a 49-year-old woman who only gave her name as Joelma during a protest in front of the monumental regional military command center in Rio de Janeiro. He did not want to give his full name, since he alleged that there were infiltrated informants in the demonstration.

Joelma and other people say they are outraged by the defeat of Bolsonaro and allege that the elections were rigged, echoing the president’s assertions — without presenting evidence — that the electronic voting system is prone to fraud.

Scenes of extensive barbecues with free food and portable toilets at various demonstrations, as well as reports of free bus rides to take protesters to the capital Brasilia, have sparked investigations into the people and companies that are financing and organizing the rallies and blockades. .

The Federal Supreme Court has frozen at least 43 bank accounts on suspicion of involvement, the G1 news site reported, saying most are from Mato Grosso. Borges mentioned the participation of figures from the agricultural sector in the protests, many of whom support Bolsonaro’s initiative to develop the Amazon jungle and his authorization for the use of pesticides that had previously been prohibited. By contrast, Lula has pledged to reinstate environmental protections.

More recently, protesters have been emboldened by the president’s decision to officially challenge the election results.

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Bolsonaro and his party filed a request Tuesday for the electoral authority to annul the votes cast on nearly 60% of the electronic voting machines, saying there is a software bug in older models. Independent experts have said that this error, although recently discovered, does not affect the results, and De Moraes quickly rejected the request “strange and illicit”.

De Moraes, who is also a magistrate of the Federal Supreme Court, called it “an attack on the democratic rule of law… with the purpose of encouraging criminal and anti-democratic movements.”

On November 21, Attorney General Augusto Aras summoned federal prosecutors from states where roadblocks and violence have become more intense for a meeting to address the crisis. Aras, widely considered a staunch ally of Bolsonarosaid he received intelligence reports from local prosecutors and instructed the governor of Mato Grosso to request federal support to clear his blocked roads.

In the long run that was not necessary, as local police forces managed to remove the protesters and, by Monday night, the roads in Mato Grosso and elsewhere had been cleared, according to the federal highway police. However, it is unknown how long this would last, amid Bolsonaro’s continued silence, said Guilherme Casarões, a professor of political science at the Fundación Getulio Vargas university.

“With this silence he keeps people on the streets,” Casarões pointed out. “This is the great advantage that he has today: a very mobilized and very radical base.”

Source: Elcomercio

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