June 16, 2020 / 3:36 PM / 23 days ago

Brazil police raid Bolsonaro backers in probe of rallies

BRASILIA, June 16 (Reuters) - Brazilian police raided the homes and offices of President Jair Bolsonaro’s allies on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the financing of anti-democratic rallies in support of the right-wing leader.

Bolsonaro’s supporters have taken to the streets almost weekly to challenge coronavirus lockdowns and call for military intervention to close Congress and the Supreme Court, which they see as obstacles to his agenda.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain and apologist for Brazil’s 1964 military coup, has attended several of the demonstrations, but he is not a target of the federal police investigation.

The president’s escalating confrontations with the Supreme Court come as Brazil suffers the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak outside the United States, which has killed some 44,000 people.

Bolsonaro’s handling of the health crisis has drawn criticism from health experts as he minimized the severity of the disease, sidelined specialists and challenged social distancing orders from governors and mayors.

Among those targeted by 21 search warrants on Tuesday were federal lawmaker Daniel Silveira and conservative blogger Allan dos Santos, both of them said on social media.

Tuesday’s operation followed arrests on Monday of pro-Bolsonaro activists behind far-right group “Brazil’s 300” which held a torch-bearing march outside the Supreme Court last month. (Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu Writing by Marcelo Rochabrun Editing by Brad Haynes and Marguerita Choy)

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