SAO PAULO - Controversy swirled in Brazil on Thursday over a video of hundreds of supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro making what appeared to be Nazi salutes at a protest against his election defeat.
The video, which went viral on social media, showed Bolsonaro backers with their right arms outstretched as they sang Brazil’s national anthem at a protest on Wednesday against Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s victory in elections three days earlier.
The protest, which obstructed a highway in the southern state of Santa Catarina, was one of many across Brazil by Bolsonaro supporters who set up roadblocks and rallied outside army bases calling for a military intervention to keep the far-right president in power.
Prosecutors in Santa Catarina opened an investigation into whether the action constituted a “defence of Nazism,” which is a crime in Brazil.
However, they said investigators had made a preliminary determination there was no evidence indicating protesters intended the gesture as a Nazi salute.
They said in a statement that a speaker at the protest had asked demonstrators to raise their hands “to emanate positive energy.”
But the video, which had been viewed some two million times, continued causing a stir.
“The use of Nazi and fascist symbols by clearly far-right ‘protesters’ is deeply shocking,” Germany’s ambassador to Brazil, Heiko Thoms, wrote on Twitter.
“Defence of Nazism is a crime!” he added, calling the gesture an “attack on democracy” that showed “a lack of respect for the victims of Nazism and its horrors.”
Israel’s embassy called on the Brazilian authorities to “take the necessary measures to put a stop to such outrageous acts.”
The Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB) called the images “repulsive.”
Bolsonaro did not acknowledge his loss for nearly 48 hours after Sunday’s election, raising fears he would try to fight the result with backing from hardline supporters.
But he said Tuesday he would respect the constitution, and urged supporters to stop blocking roads – though he encouraged “legitimate” protests. AFP