Bolsonaro apologizes amid 'pedophilia' row
Fighting for re-election, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro apologizes for what many saw as "pedophilia" after his remarks about underage Venezuelan girls, whom he called "very pretty".
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro apologized on Tuesday he was accused of "pedophilia" following a visit to a group of underage girls he implied were sex workers.
Fighting for re-election in an October 30 runoff against veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the far-right President has been embroiled in a maelstrom over his remarks about underage Venezuelan females, whom he described as "very pretty".
"If my words, which were taken out of context in bad faith, were somehow misinterpreted or caused discomfort to our Venezuelan sisters, I apologize," Bolsonaro said in a video posted online.
"My commitment has always been to better welcome and assists all people fleeing dictatorships anywhere in the world," he added, with his wife and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's representative in Brazil on his side.
Read next: UK implicated in Bolsonaro's dirty business; hidden dealings exposed
The controversy erupted Friday when Bolsonaro spoke in a YouTube interview about visiting the home of "three or four very pretty 14- or 15-year-olds" last year in a poor Brasilia neighborhood.
"There was a vibe between us. I turned around. 'Can I come in your house?' I went inside. There were 15 or 20 girls (in the house), all Venezuelans aged 14, 15, getting ready on a Saturday. Why? To earn a living," he said.
A lot interpreted the incident as an attempt by Bolsonaro to hint that if Brazil elects Lula, it will face the same destiny as Venezuela. However, Bolsonaro found himself on the defense after Lula supporters denounced the statements as "depraved" and the hashtag #Bolsonaropedofilo (Bolsonaro pedophile) went viral on social media.
His campaign succeeded Sunday in a petition to electoral authorities to ban an attack ad based on excerpts from the interview, with Bolsonaro saying the preceding day had been "the most terrible of my life."
Bolsonaro and da Silva trade insults
Two days ago, Brazilian far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and leftist rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had a heated first presidential debate, their first chance to challenge each other face to face.
Hardly a minute went by without the candidates trading jabs and insults as they squared off Sunday in their debate, two weeks from Brazil's neck-and-neck presidential election.
Lula bashed Bolsonaro, calling him a "little dictator" and the "king of fake news," accusing him of lying, and having a "disgraceful" record of corruption.
The ex-President (2003-2010) was particularly harsh in his criticism of Bolsonaro's handling of Covid-19, which has killed 687,000 people in Brazil, second only to the United States.
"Your negligence led to 680,000 people dying when more than half could have been saved," the ex-metalworker said.
Bolsonaro sought to play the blame game, shifting the focus to the issue of corruption. "Your past is disgraceful... You did nothing for Brazil but stuff public money in your pockets and those of your friends," Bolsonaro said, calling Lula a "national shame".
"Lula, stop lying, it's bad for you at your age," said Bolsonaro.
In another controversial statement, Bolsonaro swaggered to a foreign journalist in 2016, “I’d eat an Indian, no problem at all.” At the time, he recalled a trip to an Indigenous community where he was allegedly offered the opportunity to consume human flesh.
Simultaneously, Indigenous leaders have dismissed Bolsonaro's boast as yet another fabrication by Brazil's far-right President. The Yanomami people of the territory Bolsonaro claims to have visited asserted to have never committed such practice.
An Indigenous leader who has just been elected to congress said in a tweet, “Bolsonaro is a compulsive liar.”
Meanwhile, footage of Bolsonaro's cannibalism remarks, which were first broadcasted on his official YouTube channel six years ago, has gone viral on social media and has been used as further proof of the president's wantonness.