By Eduardo Davis
Brasilia, Jan 28 (EFE).- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro defied on Friday an order from the Supreme Court to give a statement to police on charges that he released secret documents with the aim of undermining public confidence in the voting system as he gears up to seek a second term in this year’s election.
The summons was issued late Thursday by Justice Alexandre de Moraes, who said that he took the unprecedented step after the president ignored repeated attempts to agree on an appropriate time and place for the questioning.
With minutes to go before Bolsonaro was supposed to report to Federal Police headquarters, his office said that he would not comply and announced an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is in recess until next Tuesday.
The avowed admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime has been at odds with the Supreme Court since taking office in January 2019, but the conflict escalated last year with his attack on the country’s system of electronic voting.
Though the apparatus has functioned without incident since its adoption in 1996, Bolsonaro said that electronic voting was conducive to fraud, citing as evidence a secret report about an attempt to hack the system in 2018.
Yet the report showed that the cyberattack had no effect on the result, which put Bolsonaro in the presidency.
The Federal Police inspector in charge of the case against Bolsonaro, Denisse Ribeiro, said last month that the president used the secret report “with the clear goal of misinforming” the public and pandering to right-wing extremists.
De Moraes has overseen an investigation of Bolsonaro supporters for spreading fake news and attacks on Brazil’s democratic institutions.
Several of the president’s most prominent allies are behind bars pending trial on charges they threatened judges and organized rallies in favor of a military intervention to secure Bolsonaro’s grip on power.
The largest of those mobilizations took place Sept. 7 in Sao Paulo, where thousands gathered to hear Bolsonaro demanded that De Moraes step down.
“This president will no longer comply with any decision of Mr. De Moraes,” Bolsonaro said on that occasion.
Late last month, the Senate rejected a motion from Bolsonaro to remove De Moraes from his seat on the Supreme Court.
Bolsonaro’s re-election prospects are not bright, as polls show former two-term President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with a commanding lead over the incumbent, widely faulted over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus has claimed 625,000 lives in Brazil. Only the United States has a higher death toll. EFE