The governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of the most important in Brazil, Eduardo Leite, a candidate for the presidential elections next year, assumed in a TV interview that he is gay.
The news generated a stir, in a country that is going through an ultra-conservative wave embodied by President Jair Bolsonaro, who often makes homophobic comments.
“In this Brazil, with little integrity, at this moment, we have to debate what we are, so that it is clear and there is nothing to hide. I am gay, I am a gay governor,” Leite said in an interview broadcast in the early morning of Friday by the popular presenter Pedro Bial, from TV Globo.
The 36-year-old centrist governor of the prosperous southern state called himself “a gay governor. Not a gay governor.” And he compared his situation with that of former US President Barack Obama, “who was not a black president, but a black president.”
“And I am proud of that,” continued Leite, who in the middle of “Pride Week” wanted face the rumors that have intensified since he became a pre-candidate of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) in the presidential elections of October 2022, in which Bolsonaro will surely seek his re-election.
“Now, with my participation in national politics, in that national debate, there are starting to be perhaps greater attacks by my adversaries,” he said.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro came out to criticize Governor Eduardo Leite, who publicly assumed that he is homosexual. Photo: AFP
Pride and criticism
“I go out to dinner with my boyfriend, I am not hiding from anyone,” said the official. Although he complained: “But there was always some noise, some understood, a joke from the president (Bolsonaro), the attacks of other politicians. That is not fair, it is not correct, it is not tolerable.”
According to the newspaper Or Balloon, It is the first time that a presidential candidate has declared himself gay in Brazil, where homosexuals and transsexuals suffer attacks on a daily basis.
His statement, advanced Thursday night by the media, became a trend on social networks, with messages where so far the praise predominates.
“Admiration and respect for my friend @EduardoLeite_”, tweeted the governor of San Pablo, Joao Doria, one of his rivals as a candidate for the PSDB, and also a tough opponent of Bolsonaro, with whom he was an ally in another time.
Leite himself responded on Twitter. He thanked “the innumerable messages of affection and support” and affirmed: “Love will conquer hatred.”
“In the Brazil of hatred and intolerance, assuming sexual orientation is a gesture of courage. My hug to the governor @EduardoLeite_”, wrote the former ‘gaúcha’ communist deputy (from Rio Grande do Sul) Manuela D’Ávila.
Leite is an important regional leader of the PSDB, the party of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) and which has an important electoral force in several of the most populated states of Brazil such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul itself.
The Brazilian president was quick to react to the news, which a large part of the country was talking about this Friday.
“That guy is believing that he is the best,” he criticized. “It is the business card for his candidacy,” Bolsonaro remarked before a group of followers at the Palacio da Alvorada, where he resides.
“No one has anything against anyone’s private life. Now, wanting to impose their custom, their behavior on others, no!”, Launched the far-right president, who in the past was criticized for homophobic and misogynistic comments.
Issues related to sexual orientation were a workhorse for Bolsonaro during the 2018 election campaign, which was supported by ultra-conservative Pentecostal churches.
The governor of San Pablo, Eduardo Leite’s rival in the PSDB inmates, praised the official who publicly admitted his homosexuality. Photo: AFP
One of his favorite topics was to denounce an educational program against homophobia as a ‘gay kit’ with which the left would be trying to influence the sexual orientation of children.
In 2011, then-deputy Bolsonaro declared: “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son. I will not be a hypocrite: I would rather have a son die in an accident than appear with a mustache.
In November last year, when the coronavirus pandemic started a deadly second wave, Bolsonaro criticized the confinement measures and urged Brazilians to “stop being a country of queers,” maintaining a normal life so as not to compromise the economy.
The electoral fight
The PSDB’s candidacy for the presidential elections next year is the subject of tough internal disputes that will have to be settled in a few previous elections summoned for November and that will be disputed by up to four candidates, among which Leite appears.
Although the main contender for the PSDB is Doria, the governor of São Paulo, the most populous and wealthiest state in Brazil, does not have unanimous support in the party.
Bolsonaro, whose popularity is at its worst, with a disapproval rate of 50%, aspires to be reelected, but Lula, who would be his main rival, leads the polls with 49% of the favoritism, more than double that of the far-right leader, who only has 23% of the support.
Source: AFP and EFE