‘Brazil is lucky’: Trump endorses Bolsonaro hours after Brazilian senate recommends criminal charges

The Brazilian president has sought to delegitimise the 2022 election a year in advance as his political strength and popularity collapse

Andrew Naughtie
Wednesday 27 October 2021 17:19
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Jair Bolsonaro speaks at a protest demanding military intervention in democratic politics

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Donald Trump has issued a hearty message of support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro just hours after Brazil’s senate recommended criminal charges against him over his mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“President Jair Bolsonaro and I have become great friends over the past few years,” Mr Trump wrote in the statement, which was distributed via email. “He fights hard for, and loves, the people of Brazil – just like I do for the people of the United States. Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them. He is a great President and will never let the people of his great country down!”

The 1,300-page senate committee report, which follows a six-month investigation, concludes that Mr Bolsonaro should face charges ranging from crimes against humanity, charlatanism and inciting crime to misuse public funds. Earlier reports indicated that the committee was considering recommending a charge of homicide, but this was downgraded.

The Brazilian president has been nationally and internationally condemned for his approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit his country extremely hard. He has at various points dismissed the seriousness of the virus itself (calling it a “little flu”), and promoted unproven “treatments” for it; Facebook and YouTube on Monday both removed a video in which he claimed the vaccines were linked with AIDS.

Mr Bolsonaro and Mr Trump enjoyed a warm relationship during the latter’s presidency. Both men governed as anti-establishment authoritarian populists, though Mr Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is often even more explicitly violent and socially conservative than Mr Trump’s. He has for many years been unambiguously nostalgic for the military dictatorship that governed Brazil from 1964 to 1985, once describing one of its most notorious torturers as a “national hero”.

As Mr Bolsonaro’s political troubles have exploded, his public popularity has sunk to new lows, putting him at serious risk of losing re-election next year to formerly imprisoned predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The president has responded to this reality by openly attempting to delegitimise the election result a full year in advance, baselessly claiming that the judiciary is planning to exploit the country’s electronic voting systems to defraud him out of the presidency.

On 8 September, Mr Bolsonaro rallied supporters in Brasilia and other major cities to decry the Supreme Court’s supposed machinations in a spectacle that resembled Mr Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on 6 January 2021.

The event came shortly after the US’s Conservative  Political Action Conference hosted its first event in Brazil, at the joint instigation of Mr Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo. After the conference, former Trump spokesman Jason Miller was detained for three hours at the airport while leaving Brasilia and questioned in connection with “anti-democratic acts”, as reported by Brazilian outlet Metropoles.

The younger Mr Bolsonaro also appeared at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s unhinged “cyber symposium” on the supposed high-tech theft of the 2020 election, a three-day event that saw zero credible evidence released.

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