Brazilian president-elect scores run-in with lawyers over pandemic comment

The incumbent president Felipe Lula da Silva is described as a ‘towel head’ for his ‘state of terror’. Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has failed to address his campaign rhetoric in the event of a…

Brazilian president-elect scores run-in with lawyers over pandemic comment

The incumbent president Felipe Lula da Silva is described as a ‘towel head’ for his ‘state of terror’.

Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has failed to address his campaign rhetoric in the event of a pandemic, according to a team of physicians and lawyers attempting to mount the first constitutional challenge against his victory.

In an interview with the Guardian this week, Jair Bolsonaro claimed that Brazilians would have to submit to experimental treatment if a global epidemic hit the country, thereby barring President Lula da Silva, who was a contender to lead the fight against a possible pandemic, from having access to necessary vaccines.

“If there is a biological attack, they will give all of us Aids drugs,” Bolsonaro said. “They will give us steroids to recover. There will be no discretion. Our citizens will be forced to accept treatment they don’t want.”

Last month Bolsonaro claimed Lula could not receive the drugs because of his conviction for corruption and for taking a $2.5m bribe from OAS, the Brazilian engineering conglomerate, while he was president. The sentence for his “bribe taking” carries a maximum 20-year jail term.

Bolsonaro’s concession that some non-dangerous diseases could be admitted to Brazil did not extend to areas affected by the HIV virus, in which there are over 3 million victims.

The opposition launched a successful appeal of Lula’s conviction, but his continued presidential bid has prompted Bolsonaro to threaten the constitution. “Lula is a towel head because of the corruption convictions,” he said on Friday, adding: “Let them tell me [he was leading the fight against a potential pandemic].”

Ana Paula Bardão, a lawyer representing his supporters, said Bolsonaro’s comments had set the stage for a constitutional suit, which could potentially halt his presidency. “We believe that it could trigger a constitutional conflict [and] could lead to significant damage for democracy in the country,” she said.

Bardão is arguing that Bolsonaro’s remarks risk flagrantly violating Brazil’s constitution, which says a candidate must not impose “any form of political, social or economic control” on anyone.

But Aude Pedrini, who is also part of the legal team, warned that such a suit could find itself in jeopardy if the election authorities used the rules of a previous year. “If it is already 2017, does that mean we have to [bring it now]?” Pedrini asked.

Jair Bolsonaro was not available for comment.

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