Brazil’s Bolsonaro backs off comments about Supreme Court justice


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday said he never intended to attack any branch of the government, as he sought to defuse a dispute with the Supreme Court in a move that boosted markets.

On Tuesday, as pro-Bolsonaro marches took place across Brazil, the president called on Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes to step down and said he would no longer comply with his rulings, deepening a rift with the judiciary.

But on Thursday, as his supporters blocked highways across Brazil, threatening key export routes, and as fallout mounted, Bolsonaro put out a statement seeking to smooth things over with the justices he has accused of preventing him from governing.

The embattled far-right leader and former army captain said his occasional strong language came from “the heat of the moment” and any problems with the justices should be resolved in court.

Brazil’s currency strengthened dramatically after his statement, closing 1.8 per cent stronger against the U.S. dollar. After losing four per cent on Wednesday in the wake of the controversial comments, Brazil’s Bovespa stock index rebounded 1.7 per cent on Thursday following his sudden moderation in tone.

Bolsonaro’s poll numbers have slipped as he has overseen the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak, nearly double-digit inflation and stubborn unemployment levels ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Later Thursday evening, in a live broadcast on social media, Bolsonaro maintained the conciliatory tone, saying he would not step outside the bounds of the constitution and that he did not have any problems with Brazil’s institutions.

He said his disagreements were with individual public figures. The president did, however, repeat that he believed the electronic voting system was vulnerable to interference — an issue that has put him at loggerheads with the Supreme Court and attracted condemnation from across the political spectrum.

A demonstrator wraps the Brazilian national flag around his shoulders as truckers block the BR-116 Regis Bittencourt highway in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday. (Leonardo Benassatto/Reuters)

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