By Gram Slattery
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was accused by opposition figures on Sunday of turning his trip to London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral into an election campaign event, in what critics said was his latest attack on Brazil’s reputation.
Bolsonaro flew to London just two weeks before the Oct. 2 first-round vote, in which he trails in opinion polls to his leftist rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In an address to his yellow-and-green-clad supporters from the balcony of the Brazilian embassy, far-right former army captain Bolsonaro touched briefly on the queen’s legacy, before accusing the opposition of trying to implant communism in South America’s largest country.
“We’re a country that doesn’t want drug liberalization, that doesn’t want to talk about legalizing abortion and that doesn’t accept ‘gender ideology’,” Bolsonaro said.
Reuters reported this week that Bolsonaro’s campaign hoped to use his trip to project the image of a respectable statesman with international support. He will go to New York later this week to make an address at the annual United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders.
The president has been largely shunned by Western leaders for his lackluster stewardship of the Amazon rainforest and his proximity with former U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Western leaders are also increasingly concerned about his commitment to democracy. He has repeatedly made baseless attacks on Brazil’s electronic voting system, and implied he may not accept the results of the election if he losses.
At an event in the southern city of Florianopolis, Lula criticized Bolsonaro for speaking of domestic electoral issues, adding that he “is in need of a good image at the international level.” Lula added that “nobody has ever invited him to go visit, and nobody wants to come here.”
The office of Bolsonaro did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca; editing by Grant McCool)