BRASILIA, Brazil — A Brazilian House justice on Friday blocked a proposal to begin the process for sending right-wing politician Jair Bolsonaro to court for charges that he threatened to use the military to crack down on crime, reported members of his own party.
Bolsonaro, who is running for president, was accused of threatening to bring back conscription and send criminals to military camps in comments during a rally in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 30. When Rep. Beto Samora of the opposition Communist Party told him the comments could amount to a crime, Bolsonaro replied: “You have my word. I would not disappoint you.”
But lawmakers voted 156 to 48 against opening formal impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro. The move was a victory for the 71-year-old politician, whose popularity rating has plummeted in recent weeks amid the controversy over his statements and his unrelenting attacks on leftists and members of the judiciary.
Bolsonaro made the remarks in response to supporters chanting, “Army against coke,” an apparent reference to a public relations stunt in December in which Coca-Cola Co. tried to hire officers to promote its soft drink.
While there are no exact restrictions on conscription in Brazil, the move would likely have been accompanied by a drastic increase in prison populations, increasing the strain on an already overpopulated prison system.
“The administration of state power is the government of the state, and you should have nothing to do with state government,” he added.
Many opponents of Bolsonaro have accused him of favoring more military rule in Brazil and threatening human rights.
Bolsonaro has been accused of making comments that conflict with the norms and rules of the military justice system. In 2002, he made comments during a violent rally in Rio de Janeiro suggesting that soldiers shoot pro-democracy protesters and pointed fingers at military prosecutors who had opposed the government of then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
In 2018, Bolsonaro was accused of misogyny, homophobia and the propagation of hate speech.
Many of his supporters defended him as someone who would help Brazil regain its sovereignty over the country’s security and political affairs, stemming the tide of rising crime and violent protests that have gripped Brazil in recent years.