Demonstrators protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Paulista Avenue, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, June 19, 2021. AP
Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets in cities across Brazil as the nation's confirmed death toll from COVID-19 soared past half a million.
It's a tragedy many critics blame on President Jair Bolsonaro's attempt to minimize the disease.
Thousands gathered Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, waving flags reading `Get out Bolsonaro.' Other marchers hoisted posters reading: ``500 thousand deaths. It's his fault.''
Similar marches took place in at least 22 or Brazil's 26 states. They were promoted by left-wing opposition parties who have been heartened by Bolsonaro's declining poll ratings with next year's presidential race looming.
Bolsonaro's supporters have taken more often to the streets over the past month, in large part because many agree with his dismissal of restrictions meant to stifle the coronavirus and anger that lockdown measures have hurt businesses.
Critics say such messages, as well as Bolsonaro's promotion of disproven treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, have contributed to the soaring death toll and a sluggish vaccine campaign that has fully inoculated less than 12% of the population. The country of some 213 million people is registering nearly 100,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths a day.