Protesters in Brazil and around the world gathered to denounce President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the Latin American country recorded its worst week in terms of new cases.
The “Stop Bolsonaro” protests were staged online and on the streets in Brazil’s main cities and in more than 20 other countries on Sunday, demanding the right-wing leader’s resignation and calling him a threat to democracy.
Brazil registered its highest number of infections at 259,105 in seven days through Sunday, according to health ministry figures.
The country also reported its second-highest weekly death toll, with 7,005 people killed, just below the record of 7,285 set the previous week.
With more than one million registered cases of the coronavirus and 57,622 deaths, Brazil has risen in the charts as a global hot spot for the pandemic – second only to the US in the number of cases and fatalities.
Bolsonaro, who called the coronavirus a “little flu”, has come under heavy fire over his handling of the crisis and his continued denial of the growing evidence of the disease’s deadly impact on Latin America’s most populous country.
In the capital, Brasilia, protesters put up 1,000 crosses on a lawn in front of Congress to pay tribute to COVID-19 victims, with a banner reading “Bolsonaro, stop denying!”
“Brazil is suffering immense pain, a hidden pain that throbs in the face of the incredible numbers of deaths caused by COVID-19,” the organisers said in a statement.
Waving red flags and holding banners, the protesters, who included members of left-wing parties, also joined a rally in Sao Paulo.
At Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana beach, military police clutching riot shields used batons to push back people protesting under the slogan “Stop Bolsonaro” as well as for Gay Pride day and against racism.
The harsh police reaction against the crowd of around 200 drew more people to protest from their windows, shouting “Get out, Bolsonaro!”
Rallies were also held in Austria, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Experts say the real number of infections and deaths in Brazil is probably much higher than the official figures.
The health ministry began this week to test all suspected coronavirus cases in the public health system, but under-testing remains a problem in the country of 212 million people.
And even though the spread of the disease is still not under control, some local authorities are pushing ahead with efforts to reopen their economies.
Rio, the city hit second-hardest after Sao Paulo, has allowed shops to reopen and football matches to resume, and even plans to let fans back into stadiums starting from July 10.