August 5, 2018 / 8:56 PM / 3 months ago

Brazilian right-wing candidate Bolsonaro picks army general as running mate

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday tipped as his running mate a controversial retired military general who said last year that a military coup was possible in the country.

FILE PHOTO: Federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech during the national convention of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) where he is to be formalised as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

General Antonio Hamilton Mourão warned last September that the military could seize power if Brazil’s courts do not punish corrupt politicians. Mourão was later removed from his post as the army’s finance chief after similar remarks that the military could step in the event of chaos in Brazil.

Going into Brazil’s most wide open presidential election in decades, Bolsonaro leads in opinion polls that exclude jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro, running as a candidate for the small Social Liberty Party (PSL), has pegged much of his candidacy on controversial remarks, whether defending the past military dictatorship or suggesting acts of violence against homosexuals.

In an interview last year with Reuters, the candidate for the Social Liberty Party (PSL) played down Mourão’s remarks.

“It was just a warning. Nobody wants to seize power that way,” Bolsonaro said. “Maybe we could have a military man winning in 2018, but through elections.”

Bolsonaro had struggled to find a running mate as other parties tried to distance themselves from his controversial comments. Other proposed vice presidential candidates - including another general, an astronaut and a sitting senator - ultimately fell through.

Mourão’s selection was part of a flurry of political announcements in Brazil on Sunday, the final day for parties to choose candidates for the October election.

Lula’s Workers Party selected Fernando Haddad to run as his vice president, according to the ex-president’s official twitter account, confirming the former São Paulo mayor who had long been considered for the role.

Lula, who has been jailed since April, is widely expected to be barred from standing for office under a law that excludes those with corruption convictions upheld on first appeal. Polls suggest support for Haddad would jump if Lula were to back him as the presidential candidate in his stead.

Senator and former agriculture minister Katia Abreu accepted an offer to run alongside left-wing presidential contender Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), according to a representative for Abreu.

Gomes had sought to ally with a wide array of parties but was rebuffed, leading him to choose fellow party member Abreu as his running mate.

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello, additional reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu, Ricardo Brito and Eduardo Simões; writing by Jake Spring; editing by Bill Trott and Richard Pullin

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