Bolsonaro Supporter Roberto Jefferson Shoots Police Ahead of Elections


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A former Brazilian congressman and supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro fired a rifle and hurled grenades at federal police officers trying to detain him on Sunday, authorities said, injuring two and further fueling fears of violence. around Sunday’s presidential election. here.

Roberto Jefferson, who boasted in 2020 of a personal friendship with Bolsonaro, was under house arrest when police converged on his home in Rio de Janeiro state. The Brazilian Supreme Court ordered his arrest after he violated the conditions of her confinement by attacking Judge Carmen Lucía online, calling her a witch and a prostitute and spreading misinformation.

After an hour-long confrontation, the former lawmaker was arrested Sunday night and charged with attempted murder.

The incident came a week before the second and final round of Brazil’s presidential elections on Sunday, which pitted Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a left-wing populist. Lula has maintained a shrinking lead in head-to-head polls throughout the campaign, but Bolsonaro and some of his allies and supporters have suggested they will not accept an electoral defeat.

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The confrontation followed efforts by the Supreme Court to curb rampant disinformation flooding the internet ahead of the vote, amid growing tension between Bolsonaro and his most radical supporters on the one hand and the Supreme Court and the highest electoral court on the other. other.

Bolsonaro condemned Jefferson’s actions on Sunday, saying in a tweet that anyone who attacks the police “is a bandit,” and criticized Jefferson’s attacks on Lucia.

But he also repudiated the court’s investigations into Jefferson, who was arrested in 2021 as part of a crackdown on disinformation and disinformation by so-called digital militias that have allegedly tried to undermine democracy.

Such investigations, he argued, have “no support in the Constitution.”

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Electoral authorities say misinformation, misinformation and violent content online, including claims that candidates are Satanists, cannibals or alcoholics, have increased in Brazil in recent weeks. The top electoral court last week authorized the head of elections, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, to remove any posts or posts that have defied the removal orders.

The electoral court also opened an investigation into an alleged social media disinformation scheme involving Rio city councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, the president’s son, and several social media accounts linked to Bolsonaro supporters. The Bolsonaros have denied any wrongdoing.

The legal actions have been harshly criticized by Bolsonaro’s supporters, who have called them acts of censorship and tyranny.

He attempted to distance himself from Jefferson, telling a television interviewer, “We’re not friends, we’re not in any relationship.” Opponents responded by posting several images of the two men together on social media.

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Lula, meanwhile, he said that Jefferson is “everything that Bolsonaro stands for.” He alluded to a series of violent episodes in recent weeks, including the alleged murder of two Lula supporters by self-proclaimed Bolsonarists for their political affiliations.

“Hate, violence and lack of respect for the law,” Lula tweeted. “Roberto Jefferson is not just a criminal, he is one of the main allies of our adversary: ​​he is the face of everything that Bolsonaro stands for.”

Lula, who has turned to the center during the campaign, said that the attacks on Lucia “cannot be accepted by anyone who respects democracy.”

“They have created a violent faction in society,” he tweeted. “A machine to destroy democratic values. This generates behavior like the one we saw today.”

As Brazil’s election day approaches, fear of violence grows

Jefferson barricaded himself in his home in the rural township of Comendador Levy Gasparian for eight hours, authorities said. The he resisted arrest using “firearms and explosives,” they said, including a grenade that injured two officers with shrapnel, police said. The officers were treated by minor injuries.

In a video posted on social media, Jefferson said he had fired a gun but did not intend to hurt the officers. He said that he “would not surrender” to the “tyranny” and “oppression” of the supreme judges.

“Fight so that our flag is on top of the world so that we can put the cross of Christ on top of the world again,” he said.

Gabriella Sá Pessoa in São Paulo reported contributing to this report.

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