Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right front-runner in Brazil’s presidential race, is famous for his incendiary comments, but on Tuesday he rejected an out-of-the-blue endorsement of sorts from David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I refuse any kind of support coming from supremacist groups,” Mr Bolsonaro said in a tweet in English. In another tweet, in Portuguese, he said: “To exploit this to try and influence an election in Brazil is an enormous stupidity! It’s not knowing the Brazilian people, who are mixed race.”
“He sounds like us,” Mr Duke said in comments picked up by BBC News Brasil and shared widely on social media in Brazil.
“He looks like any white guy in America — for that matter Portugal or Spain or Germany or France or the UK,” Mr Duke said. “And he’s talking about the demographic disaster that’s in Brazil and the massive crime that exists in that. For example, the black boroughs and so forth of Rio de Janeiro.”
During the program, Mr Duke declared that “nationalist movements which are basically pro-European are definitely sweeping the world,” and he called Mr Bolsonaro’s rise part of that trend.
Mr Bolsonaro is the front-runner by a wide margin ahead of a runoff vote on 28 October, riding a wave of anger and frustration over rampant political corruption and a crime epidemic.
For many years, Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain, was a marginal figure in Congress, best-known for defending the military dictatorship and for offensive comments about women, blacks and gays. Earlier this year, he was investigated for inciting hatred and discrimination.
In one oft-cited remark, he spoke disparagingly of quilombolas, traditional communities of Afro-Brazilians, saying residents “did nothing”. He added: “I think they don’t even manage to procreate any more.”
But as a corruption scandal engulfed the country’s major parties, sending powerful leaders to jail, Mr Bolsonaro’s clean slate enabled him to reinvent himself as an anti-establishment figure who would take on the system and rising crime.
His critics accuse him of racism and misogyny, and tens of thousands of women organised protest marches with the slogan #EleNão — or #NotHim. But Mr Bolsonaro came out of the first round of voting with a strong lead thanks in part to last-minute backing from the evangelical lobby and powerful agribusiness groups.
His supporters say he may not be politically correct, but he is a straight shooter who defends family values and traditional Christian education.
In 2016, Mr Trump caused an uproar when he initially declined to disavow Mr Duke after he declared on his radio program that “voting against Donald Trump at this point, is really treason to your heritage.”
“Honestly, I don’t know David Duke,” Mr Trump said during an interview on CNN. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him and I just don’t know anything about him.”
A few days later, he said he disavowed Mr Duke and added: “I mean, there’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have. You take a look at Palm Beach, Florida. I built the Mar-a-Lago Club, totally open to everybody.”
The New York Times
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