Stabbing of candidate shakes Brazil’s already unpredictable presidential race

By SARAH DiLORENZO

and PETER PRENGAMAN

Associated Press

SAO PAULO — The stabbing of a leading Brazilian presidential candidate jolted an already wildly unpredictable campaign to lead Latin America’s largest nation, with doctors saying Friday that Jair Bolsonaro will be hospitalized for at least a week.

Supporters of the far-right congressman who wants to crack down on crime said the attack would only boost his chances in next month’s election, but it was unclear when he would be able to return to campaigning in person.

A knife-wielding man whose motive was unknown stabbed Bolsonaro during a rally Thursday in Juiz de Fora, a city about 125 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, as he was being carried on the shoulders of a supporter.

Bolsonaro, 63, suffered intestinal damage and serious internal bleeding, said Dr. Luiz Henrique Borsato, one of the surgeons who operated on the candidate. He was in serious but stable condition and would remain in intensive care for seven to 10 days, Borsato said.

The candidate was transferred Friday to a premier hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. Supporters outside the hospital carried a giant inflatable doll of Bolsonaro dressed in a formal suit with a sash that said “President.”

“No matter what you think about him, he did not deserve this,” said Mauro Rodrigues, owner of a construction business who went to the hospital to support Bolsonaro. “It will definitely increase his chances of winning the election because people will be more sympathetic toward him.”

The attack is likely to have a major impact on the remaining four weeks of the campaign, from how candidates interact with supporters to their message.

For Bolsonaro, there will be questions about his physical ability to campaign — a key factor in a country slightly larger than the continental United States — as well as whether the attack will give him a boost among voters.

“He probably won’t go back to the streets during this campaign, so he can’t do it, but we can,” his son, Flavio, said in a video posted on Facebook. “More than ever I count with each one of you.”

Bolsonaro’s vice presidential running mate, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, told reporters that the candidate will “come out of this process stronger than he went in.”

The sentiment was echoed by Flavio Bolsonaro, who tweeted: “Jair Bolsonaro is stronger than ever and ready to be elected President of Brazil in the 1st ROUND!”

About a dozen candidates are competing in the Oct. 7 voting. If no one wins an outright majority, a second round will be held Oct. 28.

In a video posted on the Facebook page of a senator who visited him in the hospital, Bolsonaro thanked his doctors in a weak and scratchy voice and said: “I never did harm to anyone.”