June 15, 2020 / 2:08 AM / 18 days ago

Governor shuts streets in Brasilia to stop protesters reaching Congress, Supreme Court

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The governor of the federal district in which Brazil’s capital Brasilia is located closed the area around the presidential palace, ministries, Supreme Court and Congress on Sunday to keep right-wing supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro from gathering there.

A supporter of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro wears a protective face mask reading "Chinese dictatorship" during a protest against the country's Supreme Federal Court, in front of the army headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, June 14, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Governor Ibaneis Rocha forbade car and pedestrian traffic along the main thoroughfare that houses Brazil’s most important federal government buildings, preventing the protests held by Bolsonaro’s supporters that have become a regular occurrence in the area.

The state government issued the decree on Saturday night, after a small far-right group of the president’s supporters tried to invade Congress. The decree said the area was closed due to the need to avoid large gatherings amid the coronavirus epidemic, as well as the threat made by some protesters against Brazil’s democratic institutions.

With the closure of the Esplanada, as the central Brasilia area is known, Bolsonaro supporters met in other areas, including the main Army quarter in the city, according to images shown by CNN Brasil TV.

The protesters, who Bolsonaro has greeted on numerous previous occasions, accuse the Supreme Court and Congress of blocking the president’s ability to govern.

Bolsonaro has increasingly clashed with the Supreme Court in recent weeks.

In Sao Paulo, the police only authorized simultaneous protests of Bolsonaro supporters and against the president and supporting him in different locations. Protests were largely peaceful.

On Sunday, Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes tweeted that Bolsonaro may have committed a crime, when the president encouraged people to break into hospitals and film intensive care units to check whether or not beds were full, to prevent frauds in inflating the number of people with severe COVID-19.

Brazil has become the latest epicenter of the pandemic with more than 850,500 reported cases and over 42,700 deaths, both second only to the United States.

“Its shameful, not to say ridiculous, that public officials stimulate conspiracy theories and put at risk public health,” Mendes tweeted.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro, Writing by Tatiana Bautzer; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Diane Craft

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