Conservatives in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and nation’s capital Brasilia organized rallies in support of conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro this weekend, insisting that the fact a socialist assailant tried to assassinate Bolsonaro will only serve to strengthen his nationwide support.
Bolsonaro – running a campaign promising an end to corruption, consolidation of oversized public social programs, and conservative family values – was campaigning in southeast Minas Gerais state on Thursday when a man identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira ran up to the candidate and stabbed him in the abdomen. While initial reports suggested the wound was “superficial,” a subsequent medical review found significant damage to Bolsonaro’s lungs, liver, and intestines. He is expected to undergo a second surgery on Monday and is considered in “stable, but serious” condition.
Bolsonaro’s son Flavio, himself running for a senate seat in October’s elections, led the rally on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach on Sunday, dubbed an “Act for Life” to pray for Bolsonaro in addition to expressing support.
Addressing the crowd, Flavio Bolsonaro said, “Bolsonaro is stronger than ever. We are decent people, we defend the family, we have God in our hearts, we want to treat bandits like bandits in legislation. And they tried to take my father’s life for power – a political act, a political crime, an assault on democracy, but they missed the mark.”
The younger Bolsonaro had to apologize for his voice breaking on occasion in an emotional speech about his father. “You see your father being carried in the arms of the people and here comes a terrorist trying to take the life of a man who is the hope of millions of Brazilians,” he said, referring to the fact that a supportive crowd was carrying Jair Bolsonaro on their shoulders when Bispo de Oliveira stabbed him.
The younger Bolsonaro also attacked the media for attempting to “scare the people” with the fact that his father is a retired military captain, noting that Brazil’s left-leaning media do not make similar remarks about Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former socialist president who attempted to run against Bolsonaro until he was convicted of grave corruption crimes and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Bolsonaro also dismissed reports that Bispo de Oliveira was a lone wolf “crazy.”
“Some in the media are trying this murderer as if he were a lunatic,” the senate candidate said. “There’s nothing crazy about him. He must have some bit of insanity because he was a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), and they can’t hide that.”
Bispo de Oliveira was a registered member of the PSOL for nearly a decade before becoming unaffiliated. He told police following his arrest that he was “commanded by God” to kill Bolsonaro and driven by the candidate’s alleged “violent” rhetoric to kill him. Authorities have not indicated that Bispo de Oliveira cited any individual statements by Bolsonaro as having triggered his assassination attempt.
Global media outlets also identified a Facebook account as belonging to Bispo de Oliveira that spent months attacking Bolsonaro personally and expressing support for Lula’s release. Leftists in Venezuela have spent months arguing with the Supreme Court that, since Lula is popular among many socialists, he should be allowed to run for office despite his prison term being longer than one presidential term. The Supreme Court has rejected all arguments for allowing Lula on the ballot.
In Sao Paulo, a city with a left-wing reputation currently hosting Bolsonaro while he recovers, an estimated 500 people took the streets in support of the candidate, praying an Our Father in unison and chanting pro-Bolsonaro statements. Supporters there inflated a giant Bolsonaro float – similar to the pixuleco of Lula wearing a prison uniform that became a staple of anti-corruption protests, but with Bolsonaro wearing the presidential sash – and carried it around the city.
A smaller rally was held in Brasilia, deep in the nation’s interior, to support Bolsonaro. Police in the capital estimated the crowd at about 800 people. All three rallies featured both supportive messages for Bolsonaro’s ideology and prayer and support for the man personally as he continues to endure the physical trauma in the aftermath of the stabbing.
Bolsonaro posted a message of gratitude on his Twitter account Monday alongside a video of the rallies:
I thank every citizen, father, mother, son, and daughter for the acts of solidarity in the past few days. This support is our fuel. I have been communicating less because of my recovery with the help of one of my children. Thank you very much to all! We will change Brazil!
Agradeço a cada cidadão, pai, mãe, filho e filha, pelos atos de solidariedade realizados nos últimos dias. Este apoio é nosso combustível. Tenho me comunicado menos por conta da recuperação, sendo auxiliado por um de meus filhos. Muito obrigado a todos! Nós vamos mudar o Brasil! pic.twitter.com/wbmSbYAfWc
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) September 10, 2018
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported on Monday that Bolsonaro will undergo a second surgery to reconstruct part of his intestines, a major surgery that doctors expressed optimism about because the wound has not been infected and appears to be recovering at an acceptable rate given the gravity of the damage. Doctors say he is engaging in daily respiratory and motor skill physiotherapy and cannot yet eat.
Brazilians go to the polls on October 7. If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote, the nation will hold a second run-off vote between the top two candidates.