RIO DE JANEIRO (Dispatches) – Tens of thousands of people in Brazil staged another day of protests against President Jair Bolsonaro, in particular for his chaotic handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 461,000 people in the country.
In downtown Rio de Janeiro, some 10,000 people wearing masks marched through the streets with some chanting “Bolsonaro genocide” and “Go away Bolsovirus”.
Similar rallies were held in other major cities, the latest in a wave of anger against Bolsonaro that began months ago. After the United States, Brazil has the world’s second-highest coronavirus death toll.
In Brasilia, protesters made a giant plastic doll of the president and held placards demanding his impeachment.
At the outset of the pandemic, the far-right president dismissed COVID-19 as “a little flu” and, as the death toll rose steadily, he went on to infuriate people in other ways, opposing stay-at-home measures and masks, touting ineffective medications, refusing offers of vaccines, and failing to anticipate oxygen shortages that left patients to suffocate.
One of the themes of the rallies on Saturday was how many lives might have been saved if the Bolsonaro government started Brazil’s vaccination drive earlier. The effort is going slowly and has sputtered frequently for lack of supplies.
“We must stop this government. We must say ‘enough is enough’,” businessman Omar Silveira told the AFP news agency at the Rio rally.
About Bolsonaro, he added: “He is a murderer, a psychopath. He has no feelings. He does not feel as we do. He cannot perceive the disaster that he is causing.”
Demonstrators also assailed Bolsonaro for allowing deforestation of the Amazon and land seizures from Indigenous people and said he encourages violence and racism.
The anti-government protests mounted as Bolsonaro faces a Senate inquiry launched to investigate the government’s response to the pandemic and what measures were taken to fight the pandemic, including the production of coronavirus vaccines.
Analysts speculate Bolsonaro will blame the COVID deaths on former health minister Eduardo Pazuello, whom he fired in March.
An estimated 3.5 million people have been killed by the COVID-19 disease that is caused by different variants of the novel coronavirus globally.
The World Health Organization has identified four global “variants of concern,” strains coming from the UK and India, plus those identified in South Africa and Brazil.