Brazil presidential candidate in surgery after being stabbed

Officials said Jair Bolsonaro was in stable condition, though his son said he had suffered severe blood loss.


Jair Bolsonaro is undergoing surgery (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Jair Bolsonaro is undergoing surgery (Eraldo Peres/AP)

A leading presidential candidate in Brazil is undergoing surgery after being stabbed during a campaign event.

Officials said Jair Bolsonaro was in stable condition, though his son said he had suffered severe blood loss.

Numerous videos on social media showed Mr Bolsonaro, whose far-right platform includes cracking down on crime in Latin America’s largest nation, being stabbed with a knife to the lower part of his stomach.

At the moment of the attack, Mr Bolsonaro was on the shoulders of a supporter looking out at the crowd and giving a thumbs up with his left hand.

After the attack, he is seen flinching and then goes out of view. Other videos show supporters carrying him to a car.

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Mr Bolsonaro is taken on the shoulders of a supporter moments before being stabbed during a campaign rally (Antonio Scorza/Agencia O Globo via AP)

Police spokesman Flavio Santiago confirmed to The Associated Press Mr Bolsonaro had been stabbed and his attacker was arrested.

Mr Santiago said Mr Bolsonaro was taken to a hospital in Juiz de Fora, a city about 125 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, and was in good condition.

Mr Santiago said the attacker was identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira.

He said the suspect was beaten badly by Mr Bolsonaro supporters after the attack.

The man was arrested in 2013 for another assault, police said.

In a statement, the hospital attending to Mr Bolsonaro said he was in surgery but did not elaborate.

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Mr Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio Bolsonaro, initially posted on Twitter the injury was superficial and his father was fine.

However, an hour later he posted another tweet saying the wound was “worse than we thought”.

Flavio said the puncture had hit parts of his father’s liver, lung and intestines and he lost a lot of blood.

He arrived at the hospital “almost dead”, Flavio wrote. “His condition now seems stabilised. Please pray.”

A statement from federal police said the candidate had bodyguards.

In the videos, Mr Bolsonaro does not appear to be wearing a protective vest. Such measures are rare for candidates in Brazil.

“This episode is sad,” President Michel Temer told reporters in Brasilia. “We won’t have a rule of law if we have intolerance.”

Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain, is second in the polls to jailed ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been barred from running but continues to appeal.

Despite being a congressman since 1991, Mr Bolsonaro is running as an outsider ready to upend the establishment.

While he has a strong following, Mr Bolsonaro is also a deeply polarising figure. He has been fined, and even faced charges, for derogatory statements toward women, blacks and gays.

He speaks nostalgically about the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and has promised to fill his government with current and former military leaders.

His vice presidential running mate is a retired general.

Earlier this week, Mr Bolsonaro said during a campaign event he would like to shoot corrupt members of the leftist Workers’ Party, which made da Silva its candidate.

The comment prompted an immediate rebuke from the attorney general, who asked Mr Bolsonaro to explain that comment.

Other candidates quickly denounced the stabbing.

“Politics is done through dialogue and by convincing, never with hate,” tweeted Gerado Alckmin, former governor of Sao Paulo who has focused negative ads on Mr Bolsonaro.

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

The attack comes at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric, and sometimes violence, related to campaigns and candidates.

In March, while da Silva was on a campaign tour in southern Brazil before his imprisonment, gunshots hit buses in his caravan.

No one was hurt and da Silva, who is in jail on a corruption conviction, was not in the vehicles hit.

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

It was not immediately clear how the attack on Mr Bolsonaro might reshape a presidential race very much in the air with the front-runner, da Silva, in jail.

In many ways, the incident feeds Mr Bolsonaro’s narrative that Brazil is in chaos and needs a strong hand to steady it.

“It’s likely that Bolsonaro will use the attack to argue his opponents are desperate, that they had no other way to stop him,” said Mauricio Santoro, a political science professor at Rio de Janeiro’s state university.

Press Association

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