Protests wane in Brazil, but diehards stand by Bolsonaro

Protests in deeply polarized Brazil have dwindled since presidential elections nearly two weeks ago but some hard-core supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro remain in the streets.

A retired metalworker, Jose Carlos Flamino, stood at his encampment on Friday near a military barracks in Sao Paulo and vowed to remain "as long as is necessary."

He still doesn't accept that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist former president who squeaked out a 50.9 percent victory over Bolsonaro's 49.1 percent in the October 30 vote, won fairly and squarely.

"The balloting that gave victory to Lula is not reliable," said Flamino, 53, demanding the military overturn the vote.

He's not alone. Other diehard Bolsonaro supporters are camped out with him at the Sao Paulo garrison and at military barracks across Brazil.

Bolsonaro, a retired army captain, "was a victim of an injustice but we are fighting here for the fatherland," said Aguinaldo Coimbro, a 52-year-old market analyst, a Brazilian flag draped over his shoulders.

About 100 people with him outside the Sao Paulo military base chanted, "SOS, armed forces," and called on the military to "save Brazil."

Most wore green and yellow clothing, the colors of the national flag that has turned into a symbol for Bolsonaro followers.

"Brazil didn't elect anyone. The people don't accept this. We don't want to become Venezuela. Our freedom doesn't have a price," said Lena Pasqualini, 62, a jewelry saleswoman resting at a support center with donated food for the protesters.

At a temporary encampment of protesters next to the central Duque de Caxias garrison in Rio de Janeiro, around 100 people remained on Friday morning, down from several thousand in the days after the October 30 runoff election.

Even as demonstrations melt to only a few dozen people, protesters insist they represent multitudes.

The election "was stolen, and that's why all of Brazil is in the streets," said Paulo Campelo, 70, a retired soldier.

"We want the army to eliminate those bastards who want to authenticate the fraudulent elections," Campelo added.

- Lula: 'One wins, one loses' -

The Armed Forces said Friday in a statement that "the solution to possible controversies... must make use of the legal instruments of the democratic rule of law."

Protesters assert that a "fraud" was perpetrated with the electronic ballot box system, used in Brazil since 1996, and questioned without proof by Bolsonaro.

Numerous international observers and a report by the Armed Forces themselves released on Wednesday fully dispute that allegation.

Lula on Thursday appealed to the "minority in the streets" to go home.

"Democracy is that, one wins, one loses," the president-elect said. "How many times have I cried because I lost?"

Bolsonaro, who has not openly acknowledged his defeat and has practically disappeared from public life for more than a week, asked his supporters to take down hundreds of roadblocks they threw up after the vote, but supported protests elsewhere.

On Friday Brazilian roads were completely back to normal, the Federal Highway Police told AFP.

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