Brazil far-right candidate softens stances ahead of election
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman who is the front-runner going into Brazil’s presidential runoff election Sunday, has gained notoriety for making disparaging comments about gays, blacks and women and for waxing nostalgic about the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship. But he has moderated his stances during his campaign.
Some of his most controversial statements, and how he has backed off them:
In a 2011 interview with Playboy magazine, Bolsonaro said he would be “incapable of loving a homosexual son,” and added that he would prefer his son to “die in an accident” than to show up with a “bearded” partner.
On several occasions, he has said children should be spanked so they do not become gay, and in 2002 he said he would beat up any men he saw kissing on the street.
During the campaign, Bolsonaro has argued that he is not homophobic. He says he does not oppose gay people but rather the “gay kit” — the pejorative nickname given to canceled educational materials that a leftist government considered introducing to reduce homophobia in public schools in 2011.
Posing with a lesbian supporter at a recent news conference, Bolsonaro disputed claims that he is against homosexuals: “They’re spreading fake news that I will do bad things to them, for the love of God. Who doesn’t have (gay) friends or family members, and wants them to be happy?”
Bolsonaro caused an outcry last year when he said in a speech that the slave descendants living in Brazil’s “quilombo” settlements are fat, lazy and “not even good enough to procreate.”
In a 2011 interview on Band television channel, he was asked how he would react if his son fell in love with a black woman. “I won’t discuss promiscuity,” he answered. “I don’t run that risk because my sons were very well educated.”
In campaign speeches, Bolsonaro has often spoken of all Brazilians being equal and points to his support of Helio Fernando Barbosa Lopes, a black man who just won a seat in Congress.
Last week, when David Duke, the American white supremacist, declared his approval of Bolsonaro, the Brazilian swiftly tweeted: “I refuse any kind of support coming from supremacist groups.”
Bolsonaro twice told congresswoman Maria do Rosario that she did not “deserve” to be raped by him after she called him a rapist during heated arguments in 2003 and 2014. He repeated the comments to the newspaper Zero Horas in a 2014 interview: “She is very ugly. She is not my type. I would never rape her.”
Last year, Bolsonaro drew criticism for a speech in which he said that after having four sons, he had a daughter “in a moment of weakness.”
Now, his 7-year-old daughter, Laura, is the focus of a campaign video in which a teary-eyed Bolsonaro says she changed his life and the two are seen hugging.
When Bolsonaro announced his candidacy in July, he dedicated part of his speech to women, although some women called the comments patronizing. “We all came from a woman’s womb,” he said. “We wouldn’t even be born if it weren’t for their love.”
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has repeatedly shocked many Brazilians by praising the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
In a 1999 TV interview with Camera Aberta, he supported torture and said elections would not fix the country’s problems. “Unfortunately, things will only change if we start a civil war. And do the job the military dictatorship didn’t do: killing about 30,000,” he said.
During the 2016 vote impeaching President Dilma Rousseff, a torture victim during the dictatorship, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote to Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who led a torture unit.
As recently as July, he told TV Cultura that “there was no military coup in 1964.”
Yet, after winning the biggest block of votes in the presidential election’s first round Oct. 7, he joined with the second-place finisher, leftist Fernando Haddad, in signing a document promising to respect the constitution. The text says the president must respect fundamental rights and ensure freedom of expression.