By Stephanie Nebehay and Pedro Fonseca
GENEVA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday accused Chile’s former leader Michelle Bachelet, now the United Nations human rights chief, of meddling in his country’s affairs after she criticized a rise police violence and an erosion of democracy.
In comments to reporters in Geneva, Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over a jump in police violence in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states “amidst a public discourse legitimising summary executions and an absence of accountability.”
Bachelet, who was tortured under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet and was the first woman to be president of Chile, said that discourse could “entrench impunity and reinforce the message that state agents are above the law and are effectively able to kill without being held to account.”
She also criticized “a shrinking of civic and democratic space,” in recent months and attacks on indigenous communities amid a rise in forest fires in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, accused Bachelet of following the example of French President Emmanuel Macron, who led global outrage over the Amazon forest fires.
“Bachelet … (is) following Macron’s line in meddling in domestic affairs and Brazilian sovereignty,” he wrote on Facebook. “She attacks Brazil with the agenda of the human rights (of criminals), attacking our valiant … police.”
Bolsonaro also personally attacked Bachelet, whose father, an air force general, remained loyal to socialist president Salvador Allende after the 1973 coup, and died in jail.
“(Bachelet) forgets that the only reason (her) country isn’t like Cuba is thanks to those who had the courage to put a stop to the left in 1973,” Bolsonaro wrote. “Among those communists was her … father.”
Between January and July, Rio police killed 1,075 people, more than five people per day, 20% more than the same period last year and on track to be the highest tally since records began in 2003.
Bolsonaro was elected on a pledge to show no mercy to criminals after a dizzying rise in violence in Brazil. He has long praised the work of the country’s violent police, who remain a key pillar of his support.
His comments come just days before the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly, where Bolsonaro is expected to address global leaders concerned by his policies in the Amazon.
(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Marguerita Choy)