The far-right leader, who has been dubbed a “Tropical Trump,” has cultivated a close relationship with the Republican president, and has not been shy about endorsing his bid for reelection.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday he hoped Donald Trump would come out ahead in the down-to-the-wire US election, lashing out at Democratic contender Joe Biden’s comments on protecting the Amazon rainforest.
“You know where I stand, I’ve been clear. I have a good relationship with Trump. I hope he’ll be reelected,” Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia.
He denied backing Trump amounted to “interference” in US affairs, saying, “Who are we to interfere anyway?”
“How do you want me to interfere? Economically? Militarily? A cyber attack?” he joked.
Turning to Biden, who is locked in a tight race with Trump that could stretch Tuesday’s election into hours or days of vote-counting, Bolsonaro attacked the former vice president for urging Brazil to better preserve the Amazon.
“The Democratic candidate has spoken twice about the Amazon. Is that what you want for Brazil? Now that’s what I call interference,” he said.
The Amazon has been a touchy subject for Bolsonaro since Biden said in September in his first debate against Trump that he planned to raise funds from the international community to offer Brazil $20 billion to “stop tearing down the forest.”
“If you don’t, then you’re going to have significant economic consequences,” Biden said.
Bolsonaro, who has faced international condemnation for presiding over a surge in deforestation and wildfires since taking office in 2019, called the statement “disastrous and unnecessary” the following day.
Brazil’s High Court of Justice removed Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel from office Friday, as police raided his official residence in a probe into accusations he stole emergency funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The raids also targeted the far-right governor’s wife and inner circle. Among those arrested was Pastor Everaldo, an evangelical preacher and leader of Witzel’s Christian Social Party (PSC).
Helicopters circled over the stately governor’s residence, Laranjeiras Palace, starting at dawn as federal police executed a sweeping series of search and seizure orders and arrest warrants.
The court ruling suspends Witzel, 52, from office for at least 180 days as authorities investigate claims he took a reported 274.2 million reals ($50 million) in kickbacks.
“This criminal organization acted and continues acting to embezzle and launder funds in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, sacrificing the health and even lives of millions of people,” Justice Benedito Goncalves wrote in his ruling.
Prosecutors say Witzel, an erstwhile ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, set up a slush fund for bribes as soon as he took office in January 2019.
The investigation is mainly focused on allegations his administration stole emergency funds for field hospitals, ventilators and medicine to fight the new coronavirus.
“I’m being politically massacred because there are powerful interests who don’t want me governing this state,” Witzel said in a televised address from his official residence.
“The president has made extremely serious but frivolous accusations against me because he thinks I’m going to be a presidential candidate” in Brazil’s 2022 elections.
Rio is second only to Sao Paulo in infections and deaths from the virus in Brazil, which is in turn the country hit second-hardest in the world, after the United States, with nearly 3.8 million cases and 120,000 people dead.
Allegations of massive corruption in Rio have swirled since the start of the pandemic.
Of the seven field hospitals the state contracted to respond to the health crisis, only two actually opened.
Witzel was already facing impeachment in the state legislature over the accusations.
Witzel helped Bolsonaro win an election in 2018, but has since clashed with him repeatedly, including over the governor’s insistence on imposing coronavirus lockdown measures against the president’s wishes.
Including Witzel, five of Rio de Janeiro’s past six governors have now been jailed or implicated in crimes.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s eldest son, Senator Flavio Bolsonaro, said Tuesday he has tested positive for the new coronavirus but was asymptomatic.
The 39-year-old senator’s office said in a statement he was “feeling fine,” isolating at home and taking the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, which his father has aggressively pushed as a treatment for COVID-19 despite studies finding it is ineffective against the virus.
Known for his staunch support of his father, the younger Bolsonaro is under investigation for an alleged embezzlement scheme when he was a state lawmaker for Rio de Janeiro.
He is the fourth member of the presidential family to test positive for the virus.
Bolsonaro himself, 65, caught it last month, forcing the far-right leader, a fierce critic of lockdown measures against the virus, into quarantine for three weeks.
First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, tested positive days later. The president’s fourth son, 22-year-old Jair Renan, tested positive last week.
The virus, which Bolsonaro has compared to a “little flu,” has infected more than 3.6 million people and killed more than 115,000 in Brazil, the second-highest numbers in the world, after the United States.
Brazil on Saturday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths and three million cases of infection, crossing the grim milestone after President Jair Bolsonaro said he had a “clear conscience” on his response to the outbreak.
With 100,477 fatalities and 3,012,412 confirmed cases, the South American nation of 212 million people is the second hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, after the United States.
The health ministry reported 905 new deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 49,970 fresh cases.
But the official figures are most likely an undercount, with experts estimating that the total number of infections could be up to six times higher due to insufficient testing.
Brazil has seen 478 deaths per million people, a figure roughly equivalent to that of the United States (487), but lower than that of Spain (609) or Italy (583).
Senate speaker Davi Alcolumbre announced four days of mourning in Congress to pay tribute to the country’s 100,000-plus virus victims.
The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil is showing no sign of slowing as it enters its sixth month.
The country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was identified in Sao Paulo on February 26, with the first death on March 12, also in the city.
Brazil marked 50,000 deaths a hundred days later, but then doubled that total in just half the time.
Infections have accelerated in recent weeks in the countryside as well as inland regions and areas where the virus was late arriving, particularly the country’s south and center-west.
In southeastern states such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, hardest-hit by the virus in absolute numbers, the situation has stabilized, while the virus’ presence has declined in northern regions after reaching catastrophic levels in April and May.
– ‘Arrogance’ –
At Copacabana beach in Rio, activists from the NGO Rio de Paz released 1,000 red balloons Saturday while standing between 100 black crosses stuck in the sand, in a tribute to Brazilians who have died of coronavirus.
Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s leftist nemesis, on Twitter denounced “the arrogance of a president who has chosen to describe this cruel virus as a little flu, defying science and even death, and who bears in his soul the responsibility for all the lives lost.”
The contagion has cast a harsh light on Brazil’s inequalities, with the virus wreaking particular havoc on the country’s favelas and hitting black populations especially hard.
The country’s indigenous Amazon populations have also been hard hit, with one of Brazil’s leading chiefs, 71-year-old Aritana Yawalapiti, dying Wednesday of respiratory complications caused by COVID-19.
Bolsonaro’s government, which has been criticized for managing the epidemic in a chaotic fashion, is on its third health minister since the virus reached the country.
The right-wing leader, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered, said Thursday he had “a clear conscience” and had done “everything possible to save lives.”
Bolsonaro also called the governors of states that took containment measures which he opposed for economic reasons “dictators.”
Brazil resumed its national football championship on Saturday, three months behind schedule.
Facebook condemned Saturday what it called an “extreme” ruling by a Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordering it to block the accounts of 12 high-profile allies of President Jair Bolsonaro, which it vowed to appeal.
Brazil’s Supreme Court is overseeing an investigation into allegations that members of the far-right president’s inner circle ran a social media campaign to discredit the court, as well as slander and threaten its judges.
As part of that probe, Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered Facebook to suspend the accounts of 12 Bolsonaro allies, and Twitter another 16 accounts.
The US social media giants complied on July 25 — but initially only blocked visitors in Brazil from viewing the accounts.
The blocked users soon skirted the ban by telling their followers how to change their account settings to another country.
Moraes then ordered the US social media giants Thursday to enforce the suspension worldwide.
When Facebook did not initially comply, saying it would appeal to the full Supreme Court, Moraes fined the company 1.9 million reals ($365,000) and issued a summons for its top executive in Brazil, Conrado Lester.
“This new legal order is extreme, posing a threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide,” Facebook said in a statement.
“Given the threat of criminal liability to a local employee, at this point we see no other alternative than complying with the decision by blocking the accounts globally, while we appeal to the Supreme Court.”
The row comes as Facebook and Twitter face increasing pressure in the United States and around the world to act more aggressively against hate speech and false information on their platforms.
In Brazil, it is part of ongoing tension between Bolsonaro and the high court, which has also ordered a probe into allegations the president obstructed justice to protect members of his inner circle from police investigations.
The affected accounts include high-profile figures such as conservative former lawmaker Roberto Jefferson, business magnate Luciano Hang and far-right activist Sara Winter.
Brazil’s first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, tested positive for the new coronavirus Thursday, the government said, after her husband spent two weeks in quarantine with it.
The announcement came five days after President Jair Bolsonaro said he was over his illness and resumed his normal work routine.
Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, “is in good health and will follow all established protocols,” the president’s office said.
“The first lady is being treated by the presidential medical team,” it added.
Bolsonaro, 65, has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic as Brazil has surged to become the country with the second-highest number of infections and deaths in the world, after the United States: more than 2.5 million and 90,000, respectively.
The far-right president, who has compared the virus to a “little flu,” has fought to end state and local stay-at-home measures to contain it, arguing the economic fallout could be worse than the disease itself.
He is instead pushing the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, and took it himself when he was infected, despite numerous studies finding it has no benefit against COVID-19 and can cause serious side effects.
Bolsonaro regularly flouted social distancing guidelines before his diagnosis, hugging and shaking hands with supporters at rallies.
After he came down with a fever and tested positive for the virus on July 7, he spent two weeks in quarantine in the presidential palace, holding meetings remotely.
Michelle Bolsonaro had announced on July 11 that she and her two daughters tested negative for the virus.
Bolsonaro said Saturday he was recovered and had received a negative test result.
On Thursday, in his first public event since his illness, he greeted a crowd of supporters in the northeastern state of Piaui, removing his face mask at several points.
Five of Bolsonaro’s ministers have also tested positive for the virus. The latest came Thursday: Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Saturday he has tested negative for the new coronavirus more than two weeks after being diagnosed on July 7, attributing his recovery to an unproven malaria drug.
“RT-PCR for Sars-Cov 2: negative. Good morning everyone,” the 65-year-old tweeted, along with a photo of himself smiling and holding a packet of hydroxychloroquine, whose effectiveness against COVID-19 has not been demonstrated in clinical trials.
He did not say when he took the latest test.
Later, local media reported that he took a motorcycle ride through Brasilia and visited some shops, with small crowds gathering around him.
“I didn’t feel anything, not even in the beginning. If I hadn’t taken the test, I wouldn’t have known I had the virus,” he told them, according to videos played in the media.
The president, who has routinely downplayed the virus he calls a “little flu” but which is currently ravaging his country, spent nearly 20 days self-isolating at his official residence in the capital Brasilia, the Alvorada Palace.
During that time he underwent at least three more virus tests, all positive.
Three polls released this week showed the leader dubbed a “Tropical Trump” would win re-election in 2022, despite his controversial handling of the virus crisis.
The pandemic has exploded in Brazil, the country with the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in the world except the United States.
The Latin American powerhouse has registered nearly 2.3 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 84,000 deaths, and the numbers have continued to rise rapidly.
But Bolsonaro is a fierce critic of stay-at-home measures, arguing the economic pain they result in is worse than the virus itself.
The president has appeared to continue flouting virus precautions even after his diagnosis.
On Thursday he was seen going for a spin on his motorcycle and chatting maskless with a team of groundskeepers outside the presidential palace.
The same day he admitted in a live Facebook video that he was feeling “a bit wretched at being imprisoned here.”
Bolsonaro also continued greeting supporters from quarantine, separated by a narrow reflecting pond but maskless.
Three polls released this week show gains for President Jair Bolsonaro, putting him as favorite to win re-election in 2022 despite his controversial handling of Brazil’s raging coronavirus crisis.
The far-right leader, who is himself currently infected with the virus, has downplayed the pandemic even as it has exploded in Brazil, the country with the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in the world except the United States.
But this week’s polls suggest the man dubbed the “Tropical Trump” is weathering the crisis relatively well.
The latest, published Friday by news magazine Veja, puts the far-right leader comfortably ahead in the first round of the presidential election, with 27.5 to 30.7 percent of the vote, depending on his opponents.
Bolsonaro would easily win the second round against any opponent, even his popular ex-justice minister turned nemesis, Sergio Moro, or leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the poll found.
A poll published Thursday by news site meanwhile put Bolsonaro’s approval rating at 43 percent, up from 40 percent two weeks ago.
His disapproval rating fell one point, to 46 percent, it found.
Noble Reporters Media learnt the president’s approval rating was 52 percent among beneficiaries of the government’s monthly coronavirus emergency relief checks of 600 reals ($115), which aim to help poor Brazilians suffering the economic impact of coronavirus stay-at-home measures.
Bolsonaro is a fierce critic of those measures, arguing the economic pain is worse than the virus itself.
Brazil has registered nearly 2.3 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 84,000 deaths, and the numbers continue rising rapidly.
Another poll, published Monday by brokerage firm XP Investimentos, put Bolsonaro’s approval rating at 30 percent, up from 25 percent in May.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been in quarantine nearly a week after testing positive for the new coronavirus, announced Monday he plans to take another test as he “can’t stand” being in isolation.
The result of the test, which is scheduled for Tuesday, “should be out in a few hours, and I will wait quite anxiously because I can’t stand this routine of staying at home. It’s horrible,” Bolsonaro said in a telephone interview, from his official residence at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the far-right president has dismissed the seriousness of the epidemic and criticized containment measures ordered by governors in Brazilian states.
During his interview, Bolsonaro said that he feels “very well” and has no fever or problems breathing. He also has not lost his sense of taste, one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.
“Tomorrow, I don’t know if the new test will confirm (the virus), but if everything is fine, I’ll go back to work. Of course, if it’s the other way around, I’ll wait a few more days,” said the 65-year-old, adding he hoped to resume his activities within a week at most.
“Otherwise everything is fine. We are working by videoconference all the time and we are doing our best not to let things accumulate,” he said.
Brazil is the second-worst hit country in the world, after the United States. As of Monday, 72,833 people had died out of 1.8 million confirmed cases.
During his weekly Facebook Live post last Thursday, Bolsonaro said that after feeling unwell, he had started taking one hydroxychloroquine tablet every day.
The drug, originally tested to fight malaria, has been pushed as a treatment for COVID-19 in many countries — but its effectiveness has not been formally proven and the issue is deeply dividing the global scientific community.
“I took (hydroxychloroquine) and it worked, and I’m fine, thank God. And let those who criticize it at least offer an alternative,” he said during the Facebook Live.