Brazilians call for boycotts of major companies that support Bolsonaro

<span>Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters

Brazilians appalled by Jair Bolsonaro’s bigotry and authoritarianism are calling for boycotts of major companies whose founders or owners support the far-right president.

Bolsonaro has often attacked LBGT people, indigenous people, and journalists, and expressed admiration for military dictatorship, but the immediate trigger for the boycotts was a planned demonstration against the country’s Democratic institutions, which has been backed by some business leaders – and the president himself.

Related: Outrage as Jair Bolsonaro appears to endorse Brazil anti-democracy protests

“I’m trying to combat a feeling of impotence,” said Edwin Carvalho, 39, a journalism professor in the southern city of Florianópolis, who posted a message on a closed LGBT Facebook group with 320,000 members calling for a boycott of the Latin America-wide Smart Fit gym chain.

“I am a university professor, a journalist, gay,” Carvalho said. “I am everything Bolsonaro most detests in the world.”

Carvalho’s post was prompted by reports that Smart Fit founder Edgard Corona had shared videos attacking Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the lower house of congress, in the WhatsApp group of Brasil 200, a powerful business organisation.

Supporters of the president are planning nationwide protests on 15 March and have flooded social media with memes attacking congress – and even proposing a return to military rule.

Several members of Brasil 200 – including Luciano Hang, the outspokenly pro-Bolsonaro owner of the Havan department store chain – have expressed support for the anti-Democratic demonstrations.

One investor, Otavio Fakhoury, even offered to pay for sound trucks for the demonstration. The group has said it is not backing the protests, but leaving members to decide if they will participate.

Companies targeted in the boycott include Havan and other well-known Brazilian brands such as the Riachuelo clothes shops, Centauro sports shops and the Coco Bambu restaurant chain.

Pablo Corroche, 38, a teacher in Porto Alegre, cancelled his Smart Fit membership and no longer visits Havan. “We are going through an anti-democratic moment in Brazil and I won’t go along with this,” he said.

In an email, Smart Fit said: “Smart Fit does not support any politician or party. Our main mission is to make access to high standard fitness democratic.” The company supports the LGBTQIA+ cause, it added.

This does not appear to have allayed customer anger.

Luiz Pimentel, 44, a public servant in Rio, said that when he went to cancel his Smart Fit membership, the couple in front of him were doing the same. Business leaders are defending their own interests not the people. That’s why I chose to boycott not just Smart Fit but other companies too,” he said.

Pedro Parente, 56, who owns an information company in Fortaleza, has also joined the boycott. “It’s like finding a company is using slave labour,” he said. “I have the right not to consume their products or services.”