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World

Bolsonaro critics face 'intimidation campaign' in Brazil

  • Lawyers and human-rights activists warn Brazil is seeing a surge in legal and extra-legal moves to stifle dissent against Bolsonaro, in some cases with legislation and tactics dating back to the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship -- for which the president is openly nostalgic.
Updated 21 Mar 2021

RIO DE JANEIRO: When the police knocked on Brazilian influencer Felipe Neto's door to tell him he was being investigated for threatening national security, he says his heart skipped a beat.

His crime, it turned out, was accusing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of "genocide" for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 290,000 people dead in Brazil. Neto is not alone.

Brazilian police are also investigating former cabinet minister Ciro Gomes for calling Bolsonaro a "thief" over corruption allegations, sociologist Tiago Costa Rodrigues for calling him a "liar," and even, according to news site Brasil 247, an otherwise unknown citizen named Roger Orsi who shared an anti-Bolsonaro meme on Facebook.

Other critics of the president complain of less-official backlash, in the form of "online militias" of Bolsonaro supporters who launch coordinated attacks and smear campaigns against his perceived opponents on social media.

Lawyers and human-rights activists warn Brazil is seeing a surge in legal and extra-legal moves to stifle dissent against Bolsonaro, in some cases with legislation and tactics dating back to the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship -- for which the president is openly nostalgic.

"The president, his family, his administration and his followers... are blatantly promoting an intimidation campaign against his political opponents, as if free thought and free speech did not exist in this country," newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo said in an editorial Saturday.

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