Brazil Coup Fears Rise as Thousands of Jair Bolsonaro Supporters Flock to Capital

Thousands of supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have descended on Brazil's economic and political capitals, hoping to rally behind the embattled president, sparking fears of a military coup.

Bolsonaro is expected to address packed Independence Day rallies in Brasilia and Sao Paulo on Tuesday. The president has called for support for his attacks on the country's Supreme Court that has raised fears around South America's largest democracy.

Bolsonaro on August 14 called on the Senate to bring charges against two Supreme Court justices, warning Brazil could face a political "institutional rupture" if the charges were not brought.

One of the justices, Alexandre de Moraes, jailed the head of a party allied with the nationalist president in a probe of online misinformation and anti-democratic threats. He also opened a probe of Bolsonaro for posting confidential material on social media to try and prove an allegation of election fraud.

The other justice, Luis Roberto Barroso, has been a vociferous opponent to Bolsonaro's unsubstantiated election fraud claims, and the president retorted by calling him a "son of a whore."

Security was beefed up in the capital, Brasilia, in preparation for the demonstrations on Tuesday, and police started blocking access to the central mall where thousands are expected to march, Reuters reported.

More than 5,000 police officers will reportedly be deployed to protect Congress.

Critics believe Bolsonaro is trying to band together supporters to intimidate or invade the courts.

An open letter published on Monday by an influential conglomerate of leading presidents, prime ministers and leading public figures on the left, warned that Tuesday's rallies represent a danger to democracy and amount to an insurrection based on Donald Trump supporters' deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The letter, signed by more than 150 political leaders, warned the demonstrations were "stoking fears of a coup d'état in the world's third-largest democracy."

The letter also noted that on August 10, Bolsonaro "directed an unprecedented military parade through the capital city of Brasília, as his allies in Congress pushed sweeping reforms to the country's electoral system that he says are critical before the presidential elections next year".

"Members of Congress in Brazil have warned that the 7 September mobilisation has been modelled on the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, when then-president Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to 'stop the steal' with false claims of electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential elections," warned the letter.

"We are gravely concerned about the imminent threat to Brazil's democratic institutions—and we stand vigilant to defend them ahead of 7 September and after. The people of Brazil have struggled for decades to secure democracy from military rule. Bolsonaro must not be permitted to rob them of it now."

Signatories of the open letter include former prime minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, the former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Argentine Nobel laureate and human rights activist.

The protests and Supreme Court battle comes as the country prepares for its next general elections in October 2022, where Bolsonaro is up for re-election.

Several polls have shown that former president Luiz Inacio da Silva will defeat Bolsonaro in the election, possibly by a wide margin.

Brazil COVID-19 Record Jair Bolsonaro Approval Rating
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends a swearing-in ceremony for air force cadets in Pirassununga, Brazil on December 4, 2020. Thousands of supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have descended on Brazil’s economic and political capitals, hoping to rally behind the embattled president, sparking fears of a military coup. Rodrigo Paiva/Getty