Maskless President Bolsonaro leads thousands of bikers through the streets of Rio de Janeiro


Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro once again shook off any worries he may have over the COVID-19 pandemic and led thousands of bikers through the streets of Rio de Janeiro to protest nationwide measures imposed by governors and mayors to combat the deadly disease.

A maskless Bolsonaro was at the front of a motorcade that departed from vibrant city’s Barra Olympic Park on Sunday morning, the second time in two weeks the hardline leader attempted to quiet down criticism over his handling of the pandemic. 

Brazil currently has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 infections, behind the US and India, with 16 million people testing positive and nearly 450,000 dying since the start of the pandemic.  

Video footage showed thousands of supporters lining up along the sidewalks as the far-right leader was accompanied by a substantial security detail at the head of several thousand motorbikes. The event was screened live on the president’s official Facebook page. 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (center) led thousands of bikers through Rio de Janeiro on Sunday and then blasted the country’s governors and mayors, without naming any in particular, for issuing measures that have kept people confined to their homes and away from carrying on their normal lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has produced 449,068 deaths

Supporters of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro take part in a motorcade rally along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday

Supporters of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro take part in a motorcade rally along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday

People visit the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery on Mothers Day, in Manaus, Brazil, where many people have been buried after dying of the coronavirus. The country is second behind the United Staes with 449,068 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. It is third behind the United States and India with 16,083,258 cases

People visit the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery on Mothers Day, in Manaus, Brazil, where many people have been buried after dying of the coronavirus. The country is second behind the United Staes with 449,068 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. It is third behind the United States and India with 16,083,258 cases

The parade comes as Bolsonaro has tried to galvanize his support base at a time when his popularity has sunk to its lowest since he took over the presidency in January 2019, and with the latest opinion polls putting him behind ex-president Lula ahead of next year’s election.

A Senate commission is investigating his pandemic management with 449,068 people having died of COVID-19. The country is third behind the United States and India with 16 million cases. 

The rally lasted an hour and half while heading along the city’s most iconic beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana. Supporters lining the route cheered on the president and waved Brazilian flags. 

Bolsonaro, who once compared the virus to a ‘little flu’ and was infected in July 2020,  capped it off by telling his throng of supporters that he would never instruct the military to keep residents inside their homes.

After concluding a 90-minute motorcycle ride in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro told supporters: 'My army will never take to the streets to keep you indoors ... Our Army is you. More important than the executive, judiciary and legislative Powers, the power belongs to the Brazilian people'

After concluding a 90-minute motorcycle ride in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro told supporters: ‘My army will never take to the streets to keep you indoors … Our Army is you. More important than the executive, judiciary and legislative Powers, the power belongs to the Brazilian people’

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (center) gestures as he heads a motorcade rally in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (center) gestures as he heads a motorcade rally in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro meets supporters at the Monument to the Dead of the Second World War during a motorcycle rally Sunday

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro meets supporters at the Monument to the Dead of the Second World War during a motorcycle rally Sunday

‘My army will never take to the streets to keep you indoors … Our Army is you. More important than the executive, judiciary and legislative Powers, the power belongs to the Brazilian people,’ Bolsonaro said.

The president’s public appearance came after it was revealed that his youngest sister, Vânia Bolsonaro, was hospitalized with the coronavirus last Tuesday, according to online news portal G1.  

President Bolsonaro said last Thursday that he had experienced coronavirus symptoms and was feeling better after taking chloroquine without telling his doctor. It’s unknown if he come into contact with his sibling.

A patient with a suspected COVID-19 infection is taken into an ambulance in Rio de Janeiro on May 20

A patient with a suspected COVID-19 infection is taken into an ambulance in Rio de Janeiro on May 20

Cemetery workers in protective suits carry the coffin of a COVID-19 victim who was buried at Vila Formosa cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, last Wednesday

Cemetery workers in protective suits carry the coffin of a COVID-19 victim who was buried at Vila Formosa cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, last Wednesday

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (second from right) tried to galvanize his support base at a time when his popularity has sunk to its lowest since he took over the presidency in January 2019, and with the latest opinion polls putting him behind ex-president Lula ahead of next year's election

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (second from right) tried to galvanize his support base at a time when his popularity has sunk to its lowest since he took over the presidency in January 2019, and with the latest opinion polls putting him behind ex-president Lula ahead of next year’s election

On Friday, Bolsonaro was fined by a northeastern state government ‘for the promotion in Maranhão of gatherings with no sanitary safeguards.’

Bolsonaro had handed out rural property titles in front of throngs of maskless people at an event in a town in Maranháo state, where gatherings of more than 100 people are banned.

Bolsonaro’s office has two weeks to appeal, after which the amount of the fine will be set.

He claimed during a May 11 speech that China created the coronavirus ‘to spark a chemical warfare.’ 

‘It’s a new virus. Nobody knows whether it was born in a laboratory or because a human ate some animal they shouldn’t have,’ Bolsonaro said.

‘But it is there. The military knows what chemical, bacteriological and radiological warfare. Are we not facing a new war? Which country has grown its GDP the most? I will not tell you.’

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters formed part of biker rally despite the COVID-19 pandemic at Copacabana beach on Sunday

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters formed part of biker rally despite the COVID-19 pandemic at Copacabana beach on Sunday

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (right) and Brazilian Minister of Infrastructures Tarcisio Freitas (left) attend a motorcycle rally with supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (right) and Brazilian Minister of Infrastructures Tarcisio Freitas (left) attend a motorcycle rally with supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday

At the end of April, Bolsonaro said he was waiting for ‘a sign from the people’ to put an end to the pandemic restrictions taken locally by mayors and governors to try to slow the virus spread, insinuating that he could even deploy the army.

Since then, pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations have taken place every weekend with no hint of social distancing.

The president has been milking the attention, even appearing on horseback at a demonstration by farmers in the capital Brasilia.

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