Stabbing of front runner in Brazil election could reshape race

Arturo Kim
September 9, 2018

Brazil's right-wing presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed and seriously injured while campaigning Thursday, with police saying the suspect claimed to be acting on orders from God.

"His internal wounds were grave and put the patient's life at risk", said Luiz Henrique Borsato, the doctor who operated on Bolsonaro.

Police spokesman Flavio Santiago confirmed to The Associated Press that 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira had been arrested in connection with the incident.

A Twitter user posted an extremely clear video of the stabbing. the video shows Bolsonaro being carried on the shoulders of supporters, when he suddenly grabs his midsection and goes down.

Yet rising violent crime, anger over repeated corruption scandals and an efficient social media operation have helped him build support, and he is second in the polls to ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has been barred from running because of a criminal conviction for corruption. Local media said he was rounded on and beaten by Bolsonaro supporters.

Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed at a campaign event.

GloboNews, a Brazilian 24-hour television news channel, said Bolsonaro was taken to a hospital in Juiz de Fora, where he underwent surgery.

But Flavio Bolsonaro, another son, said early Friday outside the hospital where his father was treated that he was conscious and the attack was a political boost.

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Bolsonaro is one of the most controversial candidates in the current electoral round because he is a defender of Brazil's 1964-1984 military dictatorship.

Bolsonaro has 22 percent of first-round vote intentions, more than 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rivals, according to an Ibope poll released this week. Analysts said Thursday's attack may potentially give his candidacy a fresh momentum.

"This episode is sad", President Michel Temer told reporters, according to the AP.

Bispo de Oliveira acted "for religious reasons, for political reasons, and also because of the prejudice Bolsonaro has always shown when he talks about race, religion and even women", said his lawyer, Pedro Augusto Lima Possa.

Fernando Haddad, who is expected to take da Silva's place on the Workers' Party's ticket, called the attack "absurd and regrettable".

Eduardo Bolsonaro said his father was stabbed in the abdomen. A medical team is evaluating whether Mr Bolsonaro can be transferred to another hospital in Sao Paulo.

The stabbing of a leading Brazilian presidential candidate has the potential to reshape the election contest after dramatically exposing the deep polarisation in Latin America's largest nation.

Also that month, Marielle Franco, a black councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, was shot to death in March along with her driver after attending an event.

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