Bolsonaro backs off attacks on Brazil's institutions

President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday backed off his heated attacks on Brazil’s federal institutions, insisting that his recent jabs at the Supreme Court just came “in the heat of the moment.”

“My words, sometimes forceful, were spoken in the heat of the moment,” the far-right president said in a written statement after talking tough Tuesday to supporters at an Independence Day rally in Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro — who has been squaring off publicly with the high court for weeks since it opened investigations against him and those around him — took a menacing tone at the rally.  

“We do not want to fight with any power. But (…) we cannot allow a person to put our freedom at risk,” said Bolsonaro, a clear reference to judge Alexandre de Moraes, who is handling his case.

“Either the head of the (high court) puts (this judge) in his place, or else this power will suffer the consequences that nobody wants,” he said.

Some 125,000 Bolsonaro supporters rallied in Sao Paulo, police said, a packed rally but far short of the two million the president had hoped to gather.

In his written statement Thursday Bolsonaro assured that he never had “any intention of attacking” any government institution.

“I reiterate my respect for the institutions of the Republic, the driving forces that help govern the country,” he wrote.

This is typical Bolsonaro tactic, said Michael Mohallem, a law professor at the Universidad Catolica de Rio de Janeiro.

“He pushes to the limit, then backs down,” Mohallem said. 

“But he only backs off temporarily. Everything indicates that this will happen again … It’s very probable that in the next days his attacks against the Supreme Court will continue.”

Mohallem said the goal of Bolsonaro’s letter is to negotiate with the legislature “and not be impeached,” given that some parties have raised that possibility again.

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