Leading Brazilian candidate to skip 1st TV debate for runoff

The front-runner in Brazil’s presidential runoff announced Wednesday that he will skip the first TV debate before the Oct. 28 election as he recovers from being stabbed.

Doctors for far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro said he was not fit enough to participate in Thursday’s debate. He has skipped other debates since being stabbed at a Sept. 6 campaign rally before the opening round of the presidential contest.

Bolsonaro, who left the hospital Sept. 29, won Sunday’s first round by getting 46 percent of the votes. He was followed by left-leaning Fernando Haddad at 29 percent, and they advanced to the runoff.

Bolsonaro’s doctors said he will have another physical evaluation Oct. 18, and a decision will be made then on whether he will be able to show up at remaining debates.

It is not mandatory for Brazilian presidential election candidates to participate in debates.

Haddad told reporters that he would go to a hospital to debate Bolsonaro if needed.

“He has to debate. I am willing to go to a hospital to debate him,” Haddad said. “He said he doesn’t want to be under stress. I will not stress him. I will speak in the calmest way possible. I won’t raise my voice. I won’t even look at him if that is something that worries him.”

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, jabbed at Haddad on Twitter, calling him a “puppet of a jailed crook.”

“Your time is coming,” the former army officer wrote to Haddad.

Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is in jail, was barred from running due to a corruption conviction and he picked Haddad to replace him as the Workers’ Party candidate.

Last Thursday, while six candidates debated on TV Globo, Bolsonaro gave an interview to competitor TV Record. Since winning the first round, his communication has been mostly via social media and interviews with friendly media outlets.

Haddad was endorsed by labor union leaders Tuesday. The candidate also said he was visited by members of the right-wing Brazilian Social Democracy Party, which had rivaled the Workers’ Party in presidential elections since 1994.

Geraldo Alckmin, who ran as the Social Democracy candidate in the latest election, got less than 5 percent of the vote.

Also on Wednesday, The Associated Press obtained documents showing that federal prosecutors are investigating Bolsonaro’s economic adviser as part of a probe into fraud at the pension funds of several state companies. Bolsonaro has made fighting corruption a centerpiece of his campaign.

The documents say there is “relevant circumstantial evidence” that Paulo Guedes may have participated in fraud. In the documents, prosecutors noted that a fund managed by Guedes invested in a company that later bought another enterprise that may have been a shell and that repeatedly posted losses.

Guedes did not respond to a request for comment.