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Millions Demand Ouster Of Brazilian President Over Handling Of Coronavirus

by Jake Johnson, staff writer

Brazilians on Wednesday held what was described as the largest protest against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to date, but the demonstration did not take place in the streets.

Instead, voluntarily confined to their homes to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of people in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro took to their balconies and windows to demand Bolsonaro's ouster over his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, which the president continues to downplay even after more than a dozen members of his inner circle tested positive for the disease.

The massive protests kicked off mid-afternoon Wednesday as Bolsonaro delivered a televised address on the coronavirus, which has officially infected more than 400 people in Brazil. Bolsonaro, who last week dismissed fears over the pandemic as a "fantasy," acknowledged the severity of the virus but said "we can't let ourselves go into hysteria."

None too pleased by Bolsonaro's response, Brazilians continued protesting into the evening, banging pots and pans, flickering their lights, and blasting music. "Bolsonaro out!" demonstrators chanted.

Bolsonaro—who said he tested negative for COVID-19 on a second screening following conflicting reports on the results of an initial test—sparked outrage over the weekend by leaving self-quarantine to mingle with his supporters holding a mass demonstration in the streets, flouting the Brazilian health ministry's warning against large gatherings.

"He proceeded to touch at least 272 of [his supporters]," The Intercept reported, "including shaking hands, fist bumping, and taking their telephones to snap selfies before handing them back."

Brazilian lawmaker David Miranda, joined by fellow lawmakers and others in Brazilian civil society, circulated a petition Wednesday demanding Bolsonaro's impeachment for acting "irresponsibly and criminally" during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Brazil can't take it anymore," the petition reads.

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