Brazil presidential election front-runner unlikely to return to campaign after stabbing

SAO PAULO/JUIZ DE FORA, Brazil,  (Reuters) – Brazil’s presidential race was thrown into chaos yesterday with the far-right front-runner Jair Bolsonaro in serious but stable condition in an intensive care unit after being stabbed at a rally, his wound severe enough that his son said he was unlikely to be able to return to campaigning before the Oct. 7 vote.

Bolsonaro, a congressman, was knifed in the stomach while being carried atop supporters’ shoulders in a street rally on Thursday and was being treated at a Sao Paulo hospital. A Tweet posted on Bolsonaro’s verified account said he was “doing well and recuperating.”

However, Flavio Bolsonaro, Jair’s son, said in a video on his verified Facebook page yesterday afternoon that his father was in a “delicate situation and has trouble speaking.”

“He is recuperating and he probably will not be able to head out into the streets in this campaign,” said Flavio Bolsonaro. “He cannot go to the streets, but we can.”

A spokesman for the Bolsonaro campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The attack further clouds Brazil’s most unpredictable election in three decades. Corruption investigations have jailed scores of powerful businessmen and politicians in recent years, and alienated infuriated voters.

Bolsonaro, 63, has for years angered many Brazilians with extreme statements, but is also seen by his many supporters as a politically incorrect gust of fresh air in a rotten system.

He has repeatedly said the country’s notoriously violent police should increase their killing of suspected drug gang members and armed criminals.

That plays well with wealthier voters, but is terrifying for the 50 percent of Brazilians who said in a 2017 Datafolha poll they feared being victims of police violence.

Surveys consistently give Bolsonaro around 22 percent in simulated first-round votes. However, those polls find he would badly lose to most rivals in the likely event of a runoff, which takes place if no candidate wins a majority in the first ballot.

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