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THE GUARDIAN – Jair Bolsonaro stabbing: knife attack plunges Brazil’s election into disarray

Rightwing frontrunner Bolsonaro recovering in hospital from what son says was 12cm wound – and could take weeks to recover

The most acrimonious and unpredictable presidential election campaign in Brazil’s recent history has plummeted into fresh turmoil after a leading candidate was stabbed while campaigning.

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right lawmaker and retired army officer, was recovering from surgery in a hospital in São Paulo on Friday morning after he was transferred from the town of Juiz de Fora, where he was stabbed during a campaign event the previous afternoon.

The suspect was arrested within moments of the attack, and told police that he was “on a mission from God”.

 Bolsonaro gives the thumbs-up from hospital. Photograph: @flaviobolsonaro/Twitter

Doctors said Bolsonaro will spend at least a week in hospital and could take weeks to recover from life-threatening injuries.

Meanwhile his main rival, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is campaigning from behind bars, even though he has been barred from running because of a criminal conviction for corruption.

The election’s first round is to take place on 7 October.

“We have gone into a very insecure environment,” said Carlos Melo, a professor of political science at São Paulo business school Insper. “If the country was already mired in dismay, it just got worse.”

Amid record levels of violence and a string of corruption scandals which have ensnared scores of politicians, Bolsonaro’s hard line on crime, his attacks on the left and his praise for Brazil’s brutal 1964-85 military dictatorship have chimed with conservative voters.

Tapping into concerns over violence, Bolsonaro has called for looser gun laws, impunity for police who kill criminals and chemical castration for rapists.

But his extremist views and aggressive speeches frighten many Brazilians, and he faces trial before the supreme court for speech that prosecutors said incited hate and rape.

In a video recorded from his hospital bed and released on Friday, Bolsonaro thanked medical staff and described the attack. “All of us have a mission here on earth,” he said. “I prepared myself for a moment like this, because you run risks.”

Speaking with difficulty, Bolsonaro lamented missing Friday’s Independence Day parade in Rio and quoted his campaign slogan: “Brazil above everything and God above everyone.”

Bolsonaro is currently polling second to Lula. But the former president is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering and Brazil’s electoral court has ruled he cannot stand.

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