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LATIN AMERICA | 04-09-2019 16:39

Bolsonaro praises 1973 Chile coup in extraordinary attack on Bachelet

Brazilian leader makes reference to Bachelet's father Alberto, an Air Force officer who was imprisoned and tortured for opposing the 1973 coup that brought Chilean dictator to power.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has launched an extraordinary attack on former Chile president Michelle Bachelet, criticising the United Nations human rights chief by praising her country's 1973 military coup.

Bolsonaro said Wednesday that Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, "forgets that her country is not Cuba" because of the coup, which brought dictator general Augusto Pinochet to power.

The Brazilian leader also referred to Bachelet's father Alberto, an Air Force officer who opposed the 1973 coup and was imprisoned and tortured. He died in 1974, in the custody of the Chilean State.

“She says that Brazil loses democratic space, but forgets that her country is not Cuba thanks to those who had the courage to say enough to the left in 1973, among those Communists her father," Bolsonaro added.

Speaking in Geneva, the UN official and former Chilean president had earlier raised concerns about an increasing rate of killings by police in Brazil, as well as alleged restrictions on civil liberties.

She said that in Rio and São Paulo alone, "1,291 individuals were killed by the police. It might be police action, but what I want to highlight is there is an increase from 12 to 17 percent compared to the same period last year."

"In recent months we have seen also a shrinking of civic and democratic space, highlighted by documented attacks against human rights defenders, restrictions on the work of civil society and attacks on educational institutions," she added.

Bolsonaro, in response, declared that Brazil is democratic and described Bachelet's remarks as tantamount to meddling in Brazil's affairs.

Former Chile president Bachelet was "following [French President Emmanuel] Macron's line" by interfering in Brazil's internal affairs in "attacking our courageous civil police and military," Bolsonaro said on Twitter.

He accompanied the post with a photograph of Bachelet, when she served as Chile's leader, with former Argentina president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and ex-Brazil leader Dilma Rousseff.

Bolsonaro recently accused Macron of meddling in Brazil's affairs after the French president called for the internationalisation of efforts to protect the Amazon amid raging wildfires and deforestation. The far-right leader further accused France and Germany of "buying" Brazil's sovereignty after the G7 group of rich democracies offered US$20 million in Amazon fire aid. 

'Environmental psychosis'

In her news conference, Bachelet said that since 2012, "Brazil has been one of the five countries in the world with the highest number of killings of human rights defenders," expressing concern on behalf of the UN.

"From January to June this year at least eight human rights defenders were killed," she said. 

She said her office had documented killings over land disputes, but also in violence between environmental activists and illegal loggers, miners and farmers.

Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has been accused of harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes in order to benefit his supporters in those industries.

"We are experiencing a real environmental psychosis," Bolsonaro said recently.

He has attacked environmental agencies and pledged to crack down on what he's called radical activism, and also questioned the latest official figures showing deforestation increasing by 88 percent in June compared with the same period last year.

On the eve of the G7 summit in France in August, Macron declared the forest fires, which are also affecting Bolivia, an "international crisis" and put them on the agenda of the gathering. 

Macron also accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about Brazil's climate change stance.

Bolsonaro reacted furiously, accusing Macron of having a "colonialist mentality." 

The Brazilian leader later said he will stop using disposable pens made by France's Bic.

Under growing pressure to do more, Bolsonaro issued a nationwide 60-day ban on burning vegetation in the vast Amazon basin.

– TIMES/AP/AFP

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