He shows support for the far-right Brazilian president when Jair Bolsonaro faces a Senate investigation to deal with the pandemic.
Thousands of people have gathered across Brazil to support far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely denounced amid a steady rise in deaths and infections.
Protesters gathered in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and the capital, Brasilia, where thousands of people gathered on the Esplanade of Ministers as Bolsonaro briefly flew over in a helicopter.
“It’s a critical time and Bolsonaro needs the support of the people,” Edvaldo de Paulo, a 60-year-old protester, told the AFP news agency in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the severity of COVID-19, dismissing it as a “small flu” before the pandemic, and rejecting public health measures such as blockades, despite Brazil’s continuing coronavirus crisis.
The South American nation exceeded 400,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 on Friday, the second-highest total in the world after the United States, and has recorded more than 14.6 million infections to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More than half of those deaths were recorded in 2021 alone, while April was the deadliest month since the virus began spreading to Brazil last year.
Experts have said that new, more easily transmitted variants of the coronavirus have contributed to its spread, while many have blamed Bolsonaro for not taking steps to contain COVID-19.
Bolsonaro has rejected any criticism, however, saying last week that his government would not “accept this policy of staying home and shut everything down.”
The Brazilian government has also been criticized for not getting and distributing COVID-19 vaccines quickly.
The country’s regulator gave the green light to two COVID-19 vaccines, AstraZeneca and Coronavac, in January and has also approved the two Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots, which have yet to arrive.
Last week, developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine criticized Brazil for refusing to import the sting, saying the decision had a political motivation.
Meanwhile, poor and marginalized communities across the country continue to bear the brunt of the virus, such as millions of people also go hungry in the midst of the crisis.