Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been transferred to a hospital in Sao Paulo for tests on a potentially obstructed intestine, his office said on Wednesday, after the far-right leader endured a 10-day bout of chronic hiccups.
The 66-year-old had been complaining publicly about the hiccups following surgery on a dental implant on July 3.
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The Vila Nova Star hospital in Sao Paulo, where Bolsonaro is now warded, said late on Wednesday that the president would remain in hospital “initially under conservative management” following reports that he would need emergency surgery.
Communications Minister Fabio Faria said the president’s schedule would be cleared for 48 hours.
Bolsonaro’s son Flavio, speaking to radio station Jovem Pan, said that earlier in the day is father been moved to an intensive care unit in Brasilia and intubated.
“He ended up being intubated to keep him from breathing in liquid coming from his stomach,” Flavio Bolsonaro said in the interview.
The president’s office had said he had been taken to a military hospital in the capital Brasilia “to undergo tests and to investigate the cause of the hiccups”.
“This is happening at a time when President Jair Bolsonaro is going through the worst period of his 2 1/2 year presidency,” said Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew, who is in Rio de Janeiro. “The Senate is investigating the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his popularity has been taking a severe blow.”
Shortly after news of his transfer to Sao Paulo, Bolsonaro posted on his Facebook page a photo of himself smiling with his eyes closed and lying in a hospital bed covered in sensors and cables.
“I thank everyone for their support and prayers,” Bolsonaro said in the post.
Bolsonaro’s health has been an issue for much of his presidency, after he was stabbed in the intestines on the campaign trail in 2018 and nearly died. The attack has required multiple follow-up operations. Pro-Bolsonaro federal legislator Bia Kicis wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that Bolsonaro’s hospitalisation was “a consequence of the 2018 knifing”.
The president is facing mass protests and a Senate commission investigation into his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 535,800 people to date, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Bolsonaro has also been accused of failing to adequately respond to alleged irregularities in the Brazilian health ministry’s procurement of a COVID-19 vaccine from India. After the reports of irregularities became public, the government suspended the contract.
Citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the matter, Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Brazil’s federal police had formally opened a probe into Bolsonaro over the allegations.
The far-right leader also was accused this month of taking part in a scheme to skim his aides’ salaries when he served as a federal deputy.
The president has denied all the allegations against him.
But recent polls show his popularity is slipping, which could spell bad news in advance of elections scheduled for next year.
During the weekend, a Datafolha survey showed 54 percent of Brazilians support a proposed move by the country’s lower house to open impeachment proceedings against Bolsonaro, compared with 42 percent who oppose it.
It was the first time a majority of Brazilians supported such a measure.