RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Thousands of Brazilians protested against the upcoming visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Some 2,000 demonstrators, Jews and non-Jews, gathered Sunday at a major square in Sao Paulo to protest the scheduled Nov. 23 visit. Adults and children carried banners and posters, and they distributed leaflets in Portuguese and English.
Front for the Freedom of Iran, a new activist group, organized the event. Protests also were held Sunday in eight other Brazilian cities.
"The Iranian people are suffocated and need world support," Walter Feldman, Sao Paulo’s sports secretary, said at the rally in his city. "This visit is a mistake in our country’s international relations."
Ari Teperman, the leader of a Jewish gay group, said that "We can’t admit his presence in Brazil. A person that chases homosexuals in his country is not dignified to be received by the president of Brazil."
The president of the Sao Paulo Pastors Council, Carlos Castro, said that Brazil should react to Ahmadinejad’s declarations.
"Since Brazil is growing and taking its place among the greatest nations in the world, we can’t accept intolerance and discrimination," he said.
In Rio de Janeiro, home to the country’s second largest Jewish community with some 40,000 Jews, a protest is scheduled for Nov. 22, on the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit.
Last month, Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, rapped Brazilian Senate President Jose Sarney over the Iranian president’s upcoming visit.
"It is very sad to know that Brazil will receive a man who publicly says he wants to destroy our country," Metzger said.
Last May, an Ahmadinejad visit to Brazil was canceled at the last minute following several protests by thousands of demonstrators.