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LATIN AMERICA | 11-09-2019 14:33

Outrage in Brazil after Bolsonaro's son questions democracy

Son of Brazilian far-right president posts on Twitter that "the transformation that Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we are aiming for in democratic ways." Dilma Rousseff, a former president and ex-rebel who was imprisoned and tortured during military rule, condemned the tweet.

Like father, like son?

A son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has caused a stir by questioning democracy in Latin America's biggest country, which emerged from a two-decade military dictatorship in 1985.

"The transformation that Brazil wants will not happen at the speed we are aiming for in democratic ways," tweeted Carlos Bolsonaro, a close aide to his father and a municipal councilor in Rio de Janeiro.

Bolsonaro, 36, did not say what he meant by "transformation," but his father's governing party is struggling to implement economic and social changes since it has to form alliances to get a majority in Congress.

Dilma Rousseff, a former president and ex-rebel who was imprisoned and tortured during military rule, condemned the tweet.

"Only those who fought for democracy, have gone through exile, torture and imprisonment know that democracy is the only possible regime to promote change and make a country like Brazil move forward," she said.

Felipe Santa Cruz, the head of Brazil's bar association, also was critical.

"No attack on democracy can be accepted, nor can authoritarian impulses be normalised," said Santa Cruz, whose father was killed by state agents during the dictatorship, according to a government-appointed commission.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian bar association participated in a panel about Brazil's dictatorship at the United Nations in Geneva. José Carlos Dias, a former member of Brazil's National Truth Commission, denounced what he described as creeping authoritarianism in today's Brazil.

Maurice Politi, who was tortured during the military regime, agreed. "If we are not already in a dictatorship, we are walking, or taking strides, to an authoritarian regime," he said in an interview.

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who was elected last year following corruption scandals in the previous left-leaning government, scoffs at suggestions that Brazil is becoming less free on his watch.

But he has also spoken positively about Brazil's military rule, which presided over hundreds of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Last week, he praised the 1973 military coup in Chile after Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights chief, raised concerns about killings by Brazilian police and alleged restrictions on civil liberties.

Another of the president's three sons, national lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, raised hackles last year when he said it would be easy to shut down the Supreme Federal Court.

"You don't even have to send a jeep. Just send a soldier and a corporal," the lawmaker told federal police recruits in a video that circulated on social media.

Carlos Bolsonaro tried to clarify his Monday evening tweet about democracy, saying on Twitter on Tuesday that "democratically, things don't change quickly. It's a fact."

He also said the outrage was over the top, joking: "And now I'm a dictator?"

The president has a soft spot for Carlos, who handled social media for his presidential campaign. In December, the senior Bolsonaro wrote a birthday message to him: "My PitBull, thanks always for being around."

– AP

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