Thursday, July 18, 2024

LATIN AMERICA | 08-07-2024 11:47

Milei walks fine line as he slams 'judicial persecution' of Bolsonaro

President Javier Milei oversteps normal diplomatic conventions by denouncing "judicial persecution" of Jair Bolsonaro, his ideological ally in Brazil.

President Javier Milei made a charged intervention into politics in neighbouring Brazil on Sunday, denouncing what he called the "judicial persecution" of far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for an alleged coup attempt.

Milei, who has snubbed a meeting of the Mercosur regional trade bloc that will be attended by Bolsonaro's leftist successor Luis Inácio Lula da Silva in Paraguay on Sunday, made the remarks as he addressed a conference of Latin American conservatives in southern Brazil.

Argentina’s self-described “anarcho-capitalist” president was the star guest at the CPAC Brazil summit in Balneário Camboriú, a weekend meeting organised by the Conservative Political Action Conference from the United States.

On his first visit to Brazil, the ultra-liberal Milei snubbed leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with whom he has exchanged grievances, and instead embraced Bolsonaro, his ideological brother and Lula's rival.

Milei, 53, met Bolsonaro and right-wing governors Jorginho Mello (Santa Catarina state) and Tarcisio Freitas (São Paulo) during the trip, his first to Brazil since taking office. 

"Look at the judicial persecution suffered by our friend Jair Bolsonaro here in Brazil," Milei said to the applause of thousands of attendees at the forum.

The La Libertad Avanza then warned that "winds of change" were gathering against "the ideas of impoverishing socialism" in the region.

Socialism “necessarily leads to slavery or death," he argued. When governments "resist this path ... they either end up being rejected by society or end up violating freedom and playing with the lives of their citizens in order to remain in power.”

Railing against the "murderous dictatorships" of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, Milei then intensified his criticism of the Bolivian government for "staging a fake coup d'état" – a reference to the attempted overthrow of President Luis Arce’s administration late last month.

Milei has lashed out at numerous leftist leaders since taking office in December, insulting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the presidents of Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico.

He recently described Brazil's Lula as a "little lefty" with an "inflated ego," though he shied away from launching a new attack on the veteran leftist during Sunday’s speech.

The CPAC conference hailed Bolsonaro as the only future option for Brazil despite his disqualification from running in 2026 for his baseless trashing of Brazil's voting system ahead of 2022 elections he lost to Lula.

Last week, police recommended charging Bolsonaro with money-laundering and other crimes over undeclared diamond jewellery gifted by Saudi Arabia. And in March, police said he should be charged for falsifying Covid-19 vaccination records.

The former leader is also under investigation for allegedly taking part in plotting a "coup d'état" in January 2023, when thousands of his supporters invaded the seats of power in Brasilia – the Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices – calling on the military to depose Lula a week after his inauguration.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro vowed at CPAC to not "retreat" in the face of his legal woes. "Despite the problems … we are not going to back down," he told a euphoric crowd.

Backing his ideological ally, Milei said that freedom of expression was under threat, with authorities using “the excuse of not offending sensibilities or respecting noisy minorities who want to impose their minority view.”

Citing Brazil as an example, Argentina’s leader alleged that Bolsonaro’s supporters were being censored by institutions dedicated to combatting disinformation and hate speech on social media.

"These are things that seem distant or abstract, but each one of us looks at what is lamentably beginning to happen here in Brazil today and thinks twice," said Milei.

"Time and again, history shows that the same people who fill their mouths talking about democracy, pluralism and oppression are the ones who are willing to break the rules and even interrupt the constitutional order to entrench themselves in the palace when the people demand change,” he declared.



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