Brazil: Women in several cities march against Bolsonaro

Sao Paulo (AFP) –


Women turned out in force on Sunday in Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities, using the platform of International Women's Day to protest the policies of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

The women marched under banners proclaiming "He cannot continue," an allusion to the president's trademark machismo and frequent mockery of women -- he once told a female lawmaker he would not rape her because she was "not worth it".

"The government's policies have consisted of taking away the rights of women workers," 35-year-old Marcela Azevedo, with the group Women in Combat, told AFP. Her group was one of several protesting in Sao Paulo.

On Paulista Avenue, one of the sprawling city's major roadways, the demonstrators -- many dressed in red or purple -- braved a driving rain.

The demonstrations were at least partly in response to a new political offensive by Bolsonaro, who on Saturday called on his backers to take to the streets on March 15 in a show of support.

The president's critics have called the planned mobilization anti-democratic.

Two weeks ago, Bolsonaro provoked an outcry when he shared on the WhatsApp messaging system a video calling for the March 15 rally. The video was highly critical of both parliament and the judiciary branch.

After several lawmakers and judges protested, Bolsonaro said he was merely passing the video along to friends.

But on Saturday, he embraced the call for a "spontaneous" rally.

"Bolsonaro has revealed his anti-democratic side by calling for demonstrations against the other branches of government," Marcela Azevedo said.

"That is also why we are here: democratic values are dear to women."

Nearby, several women unfurled a banner bearing the words "For the life of women, we are fighting for democracy."

Other anti-Bolsonaro marches are planned in coming weeks, with a big one set for March 18.

The size of the dueling rallies will be viewed as a barometer of the president's popularity, which has slipped in his second year in office amid a slowing economy.