SAO PAULO (AP) — One of the front-runners in Brazil's presidential campaign was charged with racism on Friday by the country's top prosecutor.

Attorney General Raquel Dodge charged conservative deputy Jair Bolsonaro for statements comparing members of rural settlements founded by the descendants of slaves to animals. Members of the settlements are called "quilombolas" in Brazil.

Dodge said Bolsonaro promotes hate speech by attacking blacks, women, foreigners, native Brazilians and homosexuals, dealing a major blow to a politician polling second ahead of October's presidential elections. Jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva currently leads the preferences, but could be barred from running by Brazil's electoral authorities.

"This unacceptable statement on quilombolas is aligned with the regime of slavery in which blacks were treated as merchandise and with the idea of inequality between human beings," Dodge said. "After that, the accused said quilombolas don't do anything and are unfit even to breed, deprecating them emphatically and absolutely for who they are."

At the time of the remarks, the conservative lawmaker denied he was a racist, but acknowledged being a homophobe.

Brazilian politicians have a special jurisdiction in the country's top court, which will later decide whether Bolsonaro will have to stand trial.

If convicted, Bolsonaro could be jailed for up to three years. Dodge also wants him to pay about $120,000 in collective damages.

A Datafolha poll published in the end of January showed Bolsonaro leading in Brazil's presidential race if da Silva is not allowed to run