Brazil’s Right-Wing Presidential Frontrunner Survives Assassination Attempt

The dramatic stabbing of firebrand right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro was caught on video and shared on social media. The politician survived, but was seriously injured and underwent surgery.

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate in Brazil’s upcoming presidential election, suffered a knife attack on Thursday, during a campaign rally in the southeastern city of Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais.

A video circulated on Twitter, published by major Brazilian newspapers, showed the moment when an unidentified individual stabbed the politician in the lower abdomen. The attack occurred as the candidate was moving slowly through a large crowd.

A second video, from a different angle, showed the stabbing and then the suspect attempting to flee, but unable to get through the crowd, which then tried to get a hold of him.

His son, Flavio Bolsonaro, took to Twitter to confirm that the politician had been stabbed. The elder Bolsonaro was hurried away from the crowd and taken to a local hospital, where he went into surgery.

A third video on Twitter showed the politician being carried into a vehicle.

General Antonio Hamilton Mourão, Bolsonaro’s running mate, told Reuters news agency that the candidate’s surgery was successful. “He is okay,” Mourão said, “but his state remains delicate.”

The candidate’s son later wrote on Twitter that the knife had perforated his father’s liver, lung and intestine. “He lost a lot of blood, arrived at the hospital … almost dead. He appears to have stabilized now. Please, pray!”

Police spokesman Flavio Santiago told the Associated Press (AP) that the attacker had been arrested and was identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira. Santiago said the suspect was beaten badly by Bolsonaro supporters after the stabbing.

Luis Boudens, president of the National Federation of Federal Police, told AP that the assailant appeared to be deranged.

“Our agents there said the attacker was ‘on a mission from God,'” Boudens said.

“Their impression is that they were not dealing with a mentally stable person,” he added.

Candidates React

Brazil’s president Michel Temer said the attack was a “sad episode” and spoke out against intolerance in Brazilian society. He hoped that the event would serve as “an example to understand that tolerance is a part of democracy.”

Environmentalist candidate Marina Silva called for an investigation into the attack. “In this difficult moment that our country is going through, we must rigorously safeguard human life and the defense of our institutions and democratic life,” she said.

Ciro Gomes, labor candidate, showed solidarity to his political opponent and repudiated “violence as political language.” Both Silva and Gomes currently trail Bolsonaro in the polls with 12 percent each.

Expected to Win First Round

Brazil’s upcoming presidential election on October 7 is set to be one of the most unpredictable votes in the country’s history, with one third of voters still undecided. Bolsonaro is running on law-and-order and anti-corruption platforms.

He has been critical of Brazil’s political elites, many of which have been involved in corruption probes. This has earned him the moniker of “Brazilian Donald Trump.”

The former army captain surged in the polls this week and became the frontrunner with 22 percent of the vote share, just after jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was barred from running.

Lula appealed the electoral court decision that denied his candidacy, but on Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected it, effectively putting an end to the former president’s hopes.

Bolsonaro, like Lula, is revered by some but despised by others, reflecting the stark political polarization currently gripping the South American nation.

Surge in the Polls

Bolsonaro is the new frontrunner in Brazil’s unpredictable election, polls show. The far-right former military man is hoping to capitalize on public discontent with an anti-establishment message.

The first poll conducted since former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s candidacy was banned, put far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro on top of the presidential race with 22 percent of the vote.

In the survey, conducted on Wednesday by polling firm Ibope, environmentalist candidate Marina Silva and leftist Ciro Gomes were tied in second place with 12 percent each.

Lula’s likely successor of the Workers Party, Fernando Haddad, came in last with 6 percent. The results reflect the changed landscape without Lula, who was the frontrunner before an electoral court ruled his candidacy illegal, due to being in prison on corruption charges.

But almost a third of the voting population is undecided, making this one of the most unpredictable presidential elections in the country’s history.

Many of these voters have indicated to pollsters that they will either vote blank or not at all, due to generic disillusionment with the endless corruption scandals that currently plague Brazil’s traditional leaders.

Anti-establishment Message

Jair Bolsonaro rallied supporters on Wednesday offering a clean break from the past. The former army captain is running on an anti-graft, law-and-order campaign and has labeled his opponents of the Workers Party (PT) and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) as corrupt criminals.

“We’re going to sweep the leaders of these parties into the dustbin of history,” Bolsonaro told several thousand backers at a rally in a working class suburb of Brasilia.

“Brazil cannot stand another government by the PT or PSDB,” he said. The rally featured an inflatable doll of Lula da Silva that Bolsonaro kicked into the crowd.

While Bolsonaro is currently ahead of the first round presidential vote of October 7, polls at this stage indicate that he would lose a runoff to either Marina Silva or Ciro Gomes.

Read more: Unlikely and unlikable, Jair Bolsonaro could lead Brazil

Lula to Appeal Court Ruling

Meanwhile, Lula’s lawyers filed two legal appeals on Wednesday, hoping to reverse the court ruling against his candidacy. One was filed at the Supreme Federal Court and the other was filed at the electoral court.

Lula and his legal team argue that the ban on his candidacy cannot be imposed so long as legal appeals in the case were pending.

His Workers’ Party (PT), is also bringing the case up to the UN Human Rights Council, which said in August had supported Lula’s candidacy and urged the government to allow it.

But the appeals represent a last-ditch effort that analysts view as unlikely to be successful, since both courts have already ruled against Lula, once to jail him and then to deny his presidential run.



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