Jair Bolsonaro continues to challenge himself with increasing pressure to explain his treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined thousands of his supporters at a motorcycle rally in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday as the far-right leader continues to challenge himself under constant pressure on his government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bikers traveled about 40 km along the city’s famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, before reaching Flamengo Beach, where Bolsonaro got off his motorbike and greeted the crowd.
“My army will never take to the streets to force you to stay home,” the former army captain said.
“Without any scientific evidence, governors and mayors have imposed confinement or curfews … We are ready to take all necessary measures to ensure your freedom,” Bolsonaro added.
The president has been heavily criticized fleeing Coronavirus-related measures, such as blockades, according to public health experts, could help curb the spread of the virus in Brazil, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Early in the crisis, Bolsonaro rejected the virus as “low flu” and announced the use of antimalarial drugs. hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, and targeted local leaders trying to impose health restrictions.
More than 448,000 people have died from coronavirus, the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States, and more than 16 million cases have been confirmed so far, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.
But Bolsonaro continues to reject the need for public health measures to fight the virus, even as the Brazilian Senate makes a research in the handling of the pandemic by his government.
Monica Yanakiew, of Al Jazeera, a Rio de Janeiro informant, said about 10,000 motorcyclists took part in Sunday’s rally, which was organized by one of Bolsonaro’s closest friends.
“They want to show that President Jair Bolsonaro still has supporters despite what the polls show. Recent polls show that Bolsonaro would be defeated in the  elections of former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, ”Yanakiew said.
Lula, who held the presidency of Brazil from 2003 to 2011, was disqualified from running in the 2018 presidential election after being convicted of corruption.
But a Supreme Court judge he pulled out his conviction in March, opening the door to Lula’s return to politics. The upper track confirmed the decision in April.
While the left-wing leader has not fully said he plans to run in next year’s election, recent polls show he would defeat Bolsonaro if he does.
“I ran eight kilometers before this interview … and I usually run 9 kilometers a day, from Monday to Friday, because walking in Brazil will be very hard, very tired and I have to prepare my legs to solve the problems of this country. “Lula said during a recent interview with The Guardian.
“I will be 77 years old [by next year’s election]. I thought he was old. But then I saw Biden win the election in ’78 and I said, ‘Well, I’m a guy compared to Biden, so maybe I’ll be fine.’ “