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Brazil’s former president shows he still has clout

He may be barred from electoral politics for the next six years because of convictions for abusing his power. He may be facing a flurry of serious legal charges over his alleged attempts to foment a coup last January after losing his 2022 re-election bid.

But in a deeply polarized country, Brazil’s firebrand former rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro is still immensely popular. Over the weekend he showed it, calling tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of São Paulo, the country’s business capital and most populous city. Among them were a number of lawmakers and even the state governor of São Paulo.

Telling his followers that he, and they, are victims of a campaign by the current leftwing government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to “erase the past,” Bolsonaro demanded amnesty for his supporters who ransacked federal government buildings last year in Brazil’s own echo of January 6th.

Prosecutors say Bolsonaro directly fomented that violence and sought to subvert the results of the 2022 election, which he narrowly lost to his old nemesis, Lula. While Bolsonaro cannot compete in the next presidential election in 2026 he’ll exert significant influence over it – whether from the sidelines or from jail.