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President Jair Bolsonaro asks his followers to 'take a stand' on bicentenary of independence

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By Joao Vitor Da Silva Marques
President Jair Bolsonaro celebrates Brazil's bicentennial
President Jair Bolsonaro celebrates Brazil's bicentennial   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Millions of Brazilians took to the streets to celebrate 200 years of independence from Portugal. 

And as the military tanks rolled onto the streets for the colourful parades, repeated every 7th of September, President Jair Bolsonaro took the opportunity to ask his followers to make a stand, in an apparent move to twist the national holiday towards partisan ends. 

"The Brazilian people are taking to the streets today, to celebrate 200 years of independence and an eternity of freedom. What is at stake is our freedom and our future," Bolsonaro told state-TV.

Crucial elections in a month

Just one month ahead of presidential elections, Bolsonaro decided now to host his Portuguese counterpart, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. This however was in stark contrast to last July, when the European leader visited Brazil and was snubbed by Bolsonaro for meeting with former President Lula da Silva. De Sousa said he took the opportunity to talk about Brazil's first 'independent' leader.

"It went very well, in keeping with Brazil`s two-hundred-year history. I took the opportunity to tell the story of Dom Pedro, the life of Dom Pedro and that was a great starting point. We spoke about the 200 years and how Brazil has been asserting itself over these 200 years," said de Sousa.

Non-partisan national holiday

Although Independence Day is supposed to be a non-partisan national holiday in Brazil, the right-wing populist president has often referred to it as a key milestone in his re-election campaign, telling his die-hard supporters to prepare to "give their lives" on this day, an escalation in rhetoric even for the outspoken populist leader.

Bolsonaro's campaign team organised hundreds of political rallies to coincide with Independence Day, in a very similar move by his allies on September 7th last year.

The president's calls to action have been widely interpreted by his critics at as echoing the election-denying rhetoric of former US President Donald Trump, whose convocation of supporters in Washington on January 6th, 2021, preceded a riot on Capitol Hill.