SAO PAULO – Rightist presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, the leader in voter preference ahead of Brazil’s October general election, said a day after being stabbed at a campaign event that he was aware that such an attack was possible.
“I’d prepared myself for a moment like this because you run risks,” he said in a video message recorded Friday morning from his hospital bed in Sao Paulo.
The candidate’s security team said that Bolsonaro, an army reserve captain, was not wearing a bulletproof vest during the attack at a rally Thursday in Juiz de Fora, the second largest city in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.
The message, recorded and shared via social media by Sen. Magno Malta, an evangelical pastor and one of Bolsonaro’s closest aides, shows the candidate lying in bed with difficulty moving and talking and accompanied by relatives.
“I never did anything bad to anyone,” said Bolsonaro, who was transferred by private plane Friday morning to Sao Paulo from Juiz de Fora and will be treated at that city’s prestigious Albert Einstein Hospital.
That remark was an apparent response to those who have attributed the attack to speeches in which the candidate has promoted looser gun control laws and said he would like to shoot corrupt members of the center-left opposition Workers’ Party (PT), the political grouping of two recent former presidents, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) and Dilma Rousseff.
Police have arrested a suspect in the attack identified as Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, 40.
Bispo de Oliveira, who in the past was affiliated with a leftist party, used social media in recent months to criticize the situation in Brazil and politicians in general, including Bolsonaro.
A member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) who has praised Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship and frequently made sexist, racist and homophobic comments, Bolsonaro faces charges of inciting discrimination and a Supreme Court trial for inciting rape.
Bolsonaro, who has roughly 22 percent of voter preference, leads the polls ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential balloting, which will be followed by an Oct. 28 runoff if necessary.
The previous front-runner was Lula, but he is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption and has been barred by election officials from competing in the race.