Saturday, 22 January, 2022
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Brazil's Bolsonaro rushed to hospital

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was rushed to hospital early Monday with abdominal pain that doctors found was caused by a partial intestinal blockage, and is facing potential surgery nine months out from elections.

Bolsonaro, 66, was on vacation at the beach in the southern state of Santa Catarina when the pain started, his latest health problem since being stabbed in the abdomen during the 2018 presidential campaign that brought him to power.

The far-right leader was rushed to Sao Paulo on the presidential plane. Brazilian channel TV Globo carried images of him walking unassisted as he disembarked with his entourage, and the president's office said he was "doing well."

Bolsonaro posted a picture of himself in his hospital bed on Twitter, flashing the thumbs-up sign, with a message saying he was facing "possible surgery for an internal blockage in the abdominal region."

"I started feeling unwell after lunch Sunday. I arrived at the hospital at 3:00 am today," he tweeted after being admitted to the Vila Nova Star hospital.

"They gave me a nasogastric tube," a device to carry food and medicine to the stomach through the nose.

"They'll be doing more exams to decide if I need surgery," he added.

Bolsonaro has undergone at least four surgeries stemming from the knife attack that nearly killed him, perpetrated by a man who claimed he was following God's orders, and who was later ruled mentally unfit to stand trial.

Bolsonaro's medical team said the president was suffering from an "intestinal subocclusion," a partial blockage of the intestinal tract.

"He is stable, undergoing treatment and will be reevaluated throughout the morning," his doctors said in a statement.

"At the moment, there is no forecast for his release."

The lead doctor, surgeon Antonio Luiz Macedo, who has operated on Bolsonaro in the past, was himself on vacation in the Bahamas.

He rushed back to Brazil on a charter plane sent by the hospital, telling newspaper Valor he would only decide whether to operate after arriving late in the night.

"I'm his surgeon, and I'm the one who will decide. I need to do a clinical examination first," he said.

Bolsonaro was last hospitalized in July for an intestinal obstruction that gave him persistent hiccups.

On that occasion, doctors opted for a "conservative treatment" course, prescribing a liquid diet and deciding not to operate.

- Tarnished 'myth' -

First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro tweeted her thanks for supporters' prayers.

"We'll carry the trauma (of Bolsonaro's stabbing) for the rest of our lives, but God is good and in control," she wrote.

Bolsonaro regularly tears up when speaking about the knife attack.

Despite losing 40 percent of his blood, he survived and went on to win the presidency that October, fueling supporters' die-hard faith in the man they call "Mito" -- "The Myth."

Bolsonaro's aura of invincibility has faded since then, however.

His approval rating is at an all-time low as he prepares to seek re-election this October.

Shunning expert advice on the coronavirus pandemic, defying social distancing recommendations and refusing to be vaccinated, he has presided over one of the world's worst Covid-19 outbreaks, with nearly 620,000 lives lost.

His polarizing style continues to rile up his far-right base, but he has lost crucial support among the political center and the business sector as Latin America's largest economy has sunk into recession, with surging inflation and unemployment.

Bolsonaro currently trails far behind his likely top opponent, leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), whom recent polls indicate could win the election in the first round.

Bolsonaro's beach vacation, which started on December 27, had fanned the flames of controversy around him.

With the northeastern state of Bahia battered by deadly floods, the president ignored calls to interrupt his New Year's holiday, instead posting videos on social media of himself soaking up the sun and jet skiing through crowds of cheering supporters.