efe-epaBy Waldheim Garcia Montoya Sao Paulo

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday received a massive public vote of confidence from supporters who turned out in several cities around the country just as the government is facing problems moving forward with a controversial pension reform program.

The public support for the ultra-rightist leader, who in the five months of his administration so far has sparked a series of controversies and misunderstandings, gave him a little breathing room and during a religious ceremony in Rio de Janeiro he said that the demonstrations "were not in favor of the president" but rather to support the country's "future."

The pro-government demonstrations that brought thousands into the streets of Brazil's main cities came 11 days after the massive protests headed by students and joined by unions and social movements in reaction to the cutbacks announced for higher public education.

Despite the fact that the demonstrations on Sunday were called to pressure Congress to approve the government's pension package and the Justice Ministry's measures to combat crime, former anticorruption Judge Sergio Moro ended up expressing his support for Bolsonaro at a public ceremony.

Many of the president's supporters wore yellow and green t-shirts, Brazil's national colors, and some carried signs with messages of support for the president and against the Supreme Court, which has been harshly criticized for its stance.

Some giant inflatable figures of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - who is serving a lengthy sentence after being convicted by Moro of corruption in Curitiba - were also displayed by Bolsonaro supporters in several cities during the demonstrations.

The Copacabana strip in Rio de Janeiro, which is Bolsonaro's political epicenter, saw one of the day's largest demonstrations starting early Sunday morning, while in northern cities like Sao Luis and Belem huge numbers of supporters also turned out.

Belo Horizonte y Juiz de Fora, the latter where Bolsonaro survived an assassination attempt in September 2018, were also the scenes of large pro-government demonstrations.

Overall, demonstrations were seen in some 133 cities in 22 of the country's 26 states, as well as in the Federal District, and some of Bolsonaro's political allies rejected them, with the president of his own Social Liberal Party (PSL), lawmaker Luciano Bivar, expressing the view that they were "senseless" although he said he respected their "validity."

In Sao Paulo, the country's largest city, the demonstration was held late in the afternoon along the central Avenida Paulista.

Reserve military man Samuel Rodrigues dos Santos told EFE that he took to the streets because he believes in his daughter's "future," calling the government's moves so far "excellent" and adding that "the president is fighting against everyone and everything to save (Brazil)."

"Brazil is a country of bandits made for bandits. We're going to change that. This is the beginning, with Jair Messiah Bolsonaro," he added.

In late April, Bolsonaro's approval rating stood at 35 percent, with 31 percent saying they were neutral as to his administration's management and 27 percent saying they did not approve of his actions, according to the Instituto Ibope

The reserve army captain, who heads Brazil's emerging ultrarightist movement, was inaugurated on Jan. 1 after winning the presidential runoff in October 2018 with 55 percent of the votes.