BRASILIA (Reuters) -President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took part in Brazil’s Independence Day parade on Thursday and urged citizens to unite around common goals as he seeks to end the politicization of the armed forces that gathered steam under his right-wing predecessor.
More than 3,000 troops with military hardware will march past the president, cabinet ministers and other authorities on the central esplanade of the Brazilian capital, where a crowd of 30,000 people is expected at the annual event.
Tight security measures were prepared to contain possible protests by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, some of whom stormed government buildings a week after Lula took office in January, but no major demonstrations had been reported by mid-morning.
In a televised address on Wednesday evening, Lula touted the achievements of his first eight months in office – including strong economic growth – and called for unity after last year’s election, the most fraught in a generation.
“Brazil’s independence needs to be built every day, by all of us, on three great foundations: democracy, sovereignty and unity,” Lula said. “This is not a day of hate or fear; it is a day of unity.”
Lula has sought to rebuild trust between his government and the military, after removing several officers from his security teams over concerns they failed to protect the executive palace from invasion and vandalism by Bolsonaro supporters on Jan. 8.
The leftist leader replaced the Army commander and has coaxed the military back into their barracks after Bolsonaro placed thousands of officers in government roles, while pushing the armed forces to publicly endorse his political views.
During last year’s bicentennial Independence Day, in the final stretch of a heated presidential campaign, Bolsonaro mixed military displays with a political rally drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Bolsonaro has never conceded his defeat by Lula and was banned from seeking elected office for eight years due to his criticism of the country’s electoral system. He faces a series of investigations, with allegations ranging from abuse of his presidential powers to embezzlement of undeclared official gifts.
Police, security and intelligence services have been mobilized to monitor for trouble by Bolsonaro supporters, but officials had previously said they did not expect protests.
Many Bolsonaro backers on social media have called for people to avoid the day’s celebrations as a demonstration that Lula has little support, using the hashtag #fiqueemcasa, or #stayhome.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle and Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Brad Haynes, Jamie Freed, Alexandra Hudson)
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