Bolsonaro urges Brazilians to march in his support

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, pictured in November 2019, has urged people to take to the streets in his support on March 15

Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro called Saturday on his backers to take to the streets next weekend to show their support for him, even as critics said such a demonstration would be anti-democratic.

"This is not a movement against the Parliament or the judicial branch, but for Brazil," Bolsonaro said in northern Boa Vista state before heading to Florida for a dinner meeting with Donald Trump at the US president's Mar-a-Lago resort.

The point of the March 15 demonstration, he added, would be to show that "it is the people who determine the direction the country should take."

Bolsonaro, who has unabashedly embraced Trumpian language and positions, provoked an outcry recently 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.

Leading lawmakers sharply protested, as did several Supreme Court justices.

Bolsonaro said at the time that he was merely passing the video along to a few friends.

But on Saturday, he openly embraced the call for what he said would be a "spontaneous movement."

"If a politician is afraid of the street, he should get out of politics," said Bolsonaro, a former army captain.

Pro-Bolsonaro demonstrations last May 26 brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of Brazilian cities.

But pressure on Bolsonaro has grown amid an economic slowdown. Brazil's GDP grew a tepid 1.1 percent in 2019, his first year in office.

That was its slowest pace in three years.