Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, remains under medical observation after being rushed to hospital with chest pains in the middle of the latest political crisis of his chaotic 30 months in office.
Doctors say he is suffering from a partially blocked intestine which also caused 10 days of chronic hiccups that left the far-right leader with difficulty speaking. The blockage is almost certainly the result of being stabbed at a rally during the 2018 presidential election campaign and the four surgeries he required afterwards.
Under severe political pressure following revelations about corruption in his administration’s vaccination response to the pandemic, Mr Bolsonaro quickly sought to politicise his hospitalisation by linking the knife attack against him to the political opposition.
He published a photograph on social media of himself lying in bed, and wrote he was facing “another challenge, a consequence of the attempted assassination carried out by an old member of the PSOL, the left-wing of the Workers Party, to impede the victory of millions of Brazilians who wanted changes for Brazil”.
After a wide-ranging investigation, federal police concluded his assailant in 2018, Adélio Bispo, was psychologically disturbed and acted alone. He was found unfit to stand trial and committed to a psychiatric institution.
But Mr Bolsonaro and his supporters have never accepted the police findings and have used Mr Bispo’s former membership of the small left-wing PSOL party, founded by dissidents from the larger Workers Party, to insinuate that he was the victim of a wider political conspiracy.
Last week, with opinion polls showing Workers Party leader and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva far ahead of him in voting intentions, the former army captain threatened not to hold elections due next year, setting off the latest institutional crisis of his time in office.
Mr Bolsonaro’s hospitalisation led to the cancelling of an emergency meeting with the leaders of the supreme court and congress called to try to calm fears he is threatening the country’s democracy after weeks of increasingly belligerent remarks directed at its electoral system and the judges who oversee it.
His coup-mongering was widely denounced as a sign of mounting desperation from an increasingly besieged administration. On Wednesday, the congressional inquiry into the pandemic response, which has zeroed in on evidence of corruption in Brazil’s vaccination programme, was extended for another 90 days.
Meanwhile a supreme court justice overseeing an investigation into a fake news operation allegedly operated by Mr Bolsonaro’s son, Carlos, out of the presidential palace, has authorised the sharing of information about the Bolsonaros’ illegal use of fake news in the 2018 election with electoral authorities, which could theoretically provide grounds for the cassation of his mandate.