Brazil presidential hopeful leaves hospital amid protests

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s far-right presidential frontrunner left the hospital where he has been recovering from a stab wound on Saturday, as tens of thousands of women took to the streets in nationwide protests against his divisive candidacy.

People demonstrate against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 29, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Jair Bolsonaro suffered the near-fatal injury earlier this month and had been confined to Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital ever since, keeping off the campaign trail ahead of the Oct. 7 first-round vote in one of the country’s most divisive elections in a generation.

The hospital said in a statement on Saturday that Bolsonaro had been discharged at 10 a.m. Bolsonaro’s team said he was taking an afternoon flight to Rio de Janeiro, where he has served as a federal congressman for nearly three decades.

Angered by Bolsonaro’s history of making offensive comments, which includes making light of rape and calling the gender pay gap justified, female protesters have used the hash tag #EleNao or #NotHim to drum up support for protests against him.

People demonstrate against presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 29, 2018. REUTERS/Ana Carolina Fernandes

Saturday’s demonstrations took place in multiple Brazilian cities, from Manaus in the Amazon jungle to bustling Sao Paulo in the southeast.

“I think that, not just women, but all of us shouldn’t vote for Bolsonaro because he’s racist, he’s sexist, he’s homophobic, he’s not inclusive, and doesn’t get that Brazil is a multicultural country,” said 17-year-old Nuria Karnakis, who was at the Sao Paulo protest march. “He’s not the solution.”

There were also rival protests in support of the right-winger across the country.

“I never heard him say anything wrong about women,” said Alessandra Sampaio, 39, at a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Rio de Janeiro. “He’s against rape, drugs and in favor of the family. I have two daughters and want the best for them.”

A former army officer who has voiced admiration for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, Bolsonaro has won over many Brazilians with his hard-line stance on crime, unvarnished rhetoric, and a career that has been largely free of corruption accusations.

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Yet he has also repelled many with comments widely considered sexist, misogynist, and homophobic.

He stirred fresh controversy on Friday night, when he said in a local media interview that he would not accept the result of next month’s election if he loses, adding that he could not “speak for the armed forces commanders.”

Bolsonaro’s relative lack of support among women could spell trouble for a candidate who has become investors’ favorite after embracing free-market policies on the campaign trail.

His biggest rival and likely opponent in an expected Oct. 28 runoff is leftist candidate and former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Haddad is running for the Workers Party, whose jailed founder, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was barred by a corruption conviction. Haddad has surged in recent polls with support from the working class and voters who cannot stomach Bolsonaro.

According to a recent survey by pollster Ibope, 18 percent of women plan to vote for Bolsonaro in the Oct. 7 first round, versus 36 percent of men. In an Oct. 28 second round scenario, among those who expressed a preference, women favored Haddad over Bolsonaro by 47 to 30 percent. Among men 47 percent favored Bolsonaro versus 37 percent for Haddad.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Pilar Olivares in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown

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