Brazil’s far-right candidate for president Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen during a parade in the city Juiz de Fora Thursday. Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio tweeted that his father had been stabbed and suffered severe blood loss and arrived to the hospital “almost dead” but added that “his condition now seems stabilized. Please pray.”
Numerous videos on social media showed Bolsonaro, who has promised to crack 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, Bolsonaro was on the shoulders of a supporter, looking out at the crowd and giving a thumbs up with his left hand. According to Folha, Bolsonaro’s liver – which was perforated by the stabbing – suffered a “grave injury.”
After the attack, he is seen flinching and then goes out of view. Other videos show supporters carrying him to a car and hitting a man who was apparently the attacker. Brazilian media reported the “Brazilian Donald Trump” was undergoing urgent surgery at a local hospital.
Bolonsaro, who was caught by supporters as he fell, was quickly whisked away in an SUV, further video indicated. His son later said on Twitter that the wound was superficial and his father was doing fine.
A police spokesman confirmed that the alleged attacker – named as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira – was in custody after being badly beaten up by Bolsonaro supporters. The man was arrested in 2013 for another assault, police said.
Luis Boudens, president of the National Federation of Federal Police, told the AP that the assailant appeared to be deranged.
“Our agents there said the attacker was ‘on a mission from God,'” Boudens said. “Their impression is that they were not dealing with a mentally stable person. He didn’t expect to be arrested so quickly, agents reacted in seconds.”
“The Minas Gerais police reacted rapidly. Uniformed officers who were there arrested the attacker,” said Major Flavio Santiago, a police spokesman.
Santiago said such attacks were rare in Brazil. “The candidates in this political process of getting close to their public, they have their security, police are there,” he said. “In Brazil we don’t have the culture of this type of attack, where someone can break through security and attack a candidate.”
The incident comes after a tumultuous period in Brazilian history that saw a president impeached 2 years ago and the still popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva jailed and barred from running in the election. It is the most unpredictable election since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985 with a highly splintered field of candidates.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer commented on the attack during an event in the nation’s capital, Brasilia, saying “the intolerance that there’s been in Brazilian society is unacceptable.” Other presidential candidates were quick to condemn the attack.
Bolsonaro’s political rivals were also quick to denounce the attack.
Fernando Haddad, who is likely to replace Lula as the Workers party presidential candidate, said the stabbing was a “shame” and a “horror”.
“The violence against the candidate Jair Bolsonaro is inadmissible and is a double attack: against his physical integrity and against democracy,” said Marina Silva, an environmentalist and centrist candidate.
But Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s successor, provoked some anger when she suggested that Bolsonaro’s extremist views could have provoked the attack.
“When you plant hate, you harvest thunderstorms,” she said in an interview with the Folha de S Paulo newspaper. During the Congress session that began Rousseff’s 2016 impeachment proceedings, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote in favour of her suspension to a notorious dictatorship-era torturer. Rousseff was a member of the armed resistance to military rule and was herself tortured.
Bolsonaro recently said that members of her Workers’ party should be shot.
A former army captain, Bolsonaro – similar to Trump – had made a name for himself with his unapologetic rejection of political correctness and willingness to court controversy. Statements about women, minorities and LGBT people have repelled some Brazilians, but attracted many others.
According to the latest Ibope poll, Bolsonaro had 22% of first-round vote intentions, more than 10% points ahead of his closest rivals. Former Environment Minister Marina Silva and left-wing candidate Ciro Gomes each have 12 percent while former governor of Sao Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin, has 9%. Fernando Haddad, the likely substitute for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has 6%, although it remains unclear how much of Lula’s vote, which was in the 30% range, would transfer over to Haddad now that Lula has been barred from running for president.
Following news of the stabbling, Brazil’s Ibovespa index extended on its gains in the afternoon, as traders assumed the candidate would be the recipient of a “sympathy vote.
“People will start to see Bolsonaro as a victim,” said Luiz Roberto Monteiro, an analyst with Renascenca brokerage
Thiago de Aragao, from political consultancy Arko added that “some might interpret that if the ‘left’ did this, the chance of them losing increases considerably.” However, he added that it’s too soon to point to correlation between stabbing and markets, and that if that proves true it shows “how the market is completely lost in their interpretation of the campaign.”
Bolsonaro, once feared by investors because of comments against privatizations and private investments, has become the most viable option against the left. The incident “increases Bolsonaro’s election chances,” said Richard Back, head of Latin America political strategy at XP Investimentos, at a time the candidate was losing votes.