Even Bolsonaro is urging his Nazi-saluting superfans to stop holding the country hostage

RIO DE JANEIRO—They wore the yellow jerseys of the Brazil national soccer team, many waving the national flag, others holding signs that read, “The military is our only savior!”, “Save the nation,” or “Intervention, Now! ”

Hundreds of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro rallied in front of Forte de Copacabana, a military base at the south end of Rio de Janeiro’s famous beach, despite persistent rain.

Her message was crystal clear, her emotions intense and raw. One by one, they expressed anger at Sunday’s election results that had restored Bolsonaro’s left-wing opponent Luis Inácio Lula da Silva to power. The majority of Bolsonarists believe Lula is an illegal president who should be in prison on corruption charges.

“What other means do we have to save this country from destruction by the communists? You can’t let this fester, or in a few years we’ll be standing here crying and saying why we ended up like Venezuela? asked Luciana Marquéz, dressed in a football shirt with the name Neymar on the back. Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., currently the biggest star in Brazilian football, backed Bolsonaro ahead of the election.

There were hundreds if not thousands of such Bolsonaristas across the country. They continued to block major highways and roads from Porto Alegre in the south on the border with Argentina to the north on the border with Venezuela. Many have called for the military to interrupt the upcoming Jan. 1 transfer of power and prevent Lula from regaining the presidency.

Some disturbing images came from Sao Miguel do Oeste in the southern coastal state of Santa Catarina, where Bolsonaristas have been blocking the SC-163 highway since Monday. Once they held out their right hands together in the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil” while the Brazilian national anthem played in the background.

TV channel O Globo described the Bolsonaristas blockading the country and calling for military action as golpistas – putschists.

In a video message to his supporters on Wednesday evening, Bolsonaro called for their barricades to be dismantled. The appeal came after a car drove into one of the blockades, leaving several injured. “I know you’re upset and sad that you were hoping for a different outcome. Me too, I’m just as sad and upset as you are,” Bolsonaro said.

Whether his plea is heeded and Brazil steps back from the abyss depends on the stance of the military – the only force in the country capable of a real coup d’état.

The Daily Beast spoke to two senior Brazilian military officers to discuss the state of mind of the army. The officers agreed to interviews on condition of anonymity, citing their fear of possible punishment from their commanders.

It’s no surprise that the military is closer to Bolsonaro, himself a retired military officer, than to Lula.

“We are professionals and will serve the constitutionally elected President who is our commander in chief. And at that moment it will be Lula da Silva,” said an officer serving at the air force base here in Rio de Janeiro. But he expressed disappointment and even contempt for Lula’s supporters.

“Especially in the Northeast, many Brazilians are not well educated and will vote for anyone who gives them money,” he continued, pointing to the region, seen as a left bastion, which voted decisively for Lula.

His colleague was even more blunt about Lulistas, calling them unpatriotic and a bunch of freeloaders. “Thieves like thieves, so it doesn’t surprise me that some Brazilians voted for Lula. They have no pride and no duty to this nation. They just want to take and take. I fear they could destroy this nation economically and morally as well.”

In fact, more than 60 million Brazilians voted for Lula last Sunday – some of them now joking about the introduction of communism in the country.

“I’m going to have a piece of dog with mashed potatoes on the side for dinner,” said 27-year-old Fabiana, poking fun at right-wing scaremongering as she ran for cover in heavy rain near Ipanema Beach.

She alluded to Jair Bolsonaro’s remark during the campaign that Brazil under Lula would become another Venezuela, where the starving population has been reduced to eating dogs and cats after more than two decades of socialist rule.

Other Lulistas take a more serious, somber tone. “This Bolsonaro movement is just scary. I didn’t even celebrate on Sunday because it was on my floor [in my building], I live with Bolsonaristas and they were and still are pretty angry. It’s better to stay calm and not provoke them,” explained André Olivera at a luncheon on Tonelero Street.

As we spoke we could hear the Bolsonarista chants around the corner.

“I think we’re in the middle of a cold civil war,” added André, visibly shaken. Even Bolsonaro is urging his Nazi-saluting superfans to stop holding the country hostage

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