Thousands of Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters called Wednesday for the Brazilian military to intervene and keep the right-wing president in power after he lost re-election over the weekend to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
After days of silence, Bolsonaro on Tuesday gave a short speech in which he neither accepted defeat nor congratulated Lula on his win, though his chief of staff took the podium afterward to say the president had “authorized” the transition to a new government.
Since then, his supporters have rallied in front of military installations in Brazil’s major cities to call for action.
“Federal intervention now!” chanted some of the thousands who gathered in front of the Southeastern Military Command in the Latin American country’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, on Wednesday.
“We want a federal intervention because we demand our freedom. We do not admit that a thief governs us,” Angela Cosac, 70, told AFP, next to a sign reading “SOS Armed Forces“.
Another demonstration along Sao Paulo’s Paulista Avenue was also planned for later in the day.
Thousands also gathered in the capital, Brasilia, chanting “civil resistance.” In rainy downtown Rio de Janeiro, demonstrators were filmed by Brazilian media chanting: “Lula, thief, your place is in prison.”
– Blockades –
Protesters also maintained road blockades across the country for the third consecutive day, though the number decreased from 271 on Tuesday to 167 Wednesday, according to police.
In Sao Paulo, military police used tear gas to disperse a blockade on the main highway connecting the state with the central-west region of the country, after the Supreme Federal Court ordered the use of “all necessary measures” to open the roads.
Trucks sounded their horns while demonstrators, wearing yellow football jerseys, waved flags in front of passing vehicles, according to scenes broadcast on local television.
The blockades have caused disruptions across the country. The main airport in Sao Paulo, Guarulhos, cancelled 48 flights due to the protests, according to its press office.
The National Confederation of Industry warned on Tuesday of an “imminent risk of fuel shortages” if the roads were not quickly unblocked.
Infrastructure minister Marcelo Sampaio had asked late Tuesday for protesters to unblock the highways to allow medicine, supplies and fuel to circulate.
Bolsonaro on Tuesday said the roadblocks were “the fruit of indignation and a feeling of injustice at how the electoral process took place.”
“Peaceful protests will always be welcome,” he said.
That was interpreted by some supporters as a call to maintain the demonstrations.
“The dream is still alive,” said a message by one supporter on Tuesday on Telegram. “Fill the streets tomorrow.”
Bolsonaro’s comments Tuesday broke his two days of silence on the election results, which had fanned fears he would not accept the outcome.
In a speech that lasted just over two minutes, the far-right incumbent did not mention Lula’s name, but promised to “comply” with the constitution.
His chief of staff then told the gathered press that the president had “authorized” the start of the transition.
Lula’s Workers’ Party announced Tuesday that his vice-president-elect Geraldo Alckmin would lead the transition process, which would begin on Thursday.
Lula, who served as president from 2003 to 2010, will be inaugurated for his third term on January 1.