In a now viral video of a 2016 interview, the Brazilian president claims he would eat human flesh
It was a shocking statement, even for a politician who has glorified torturers and called for rivals to be shot.
“I’d eat an Indian, no problem at all,” Jair Bolsonaro bragged to a foreign journalist in 2016, as he described a trip to an Indigenous community where he had purportedly been offered the chance to consume human flesh.
Indigenous leaders have rejected Bolsonaro’s boast as yet another lie from Brazil’s far-right president. The Yanomami people from the territory Bolsonaro claims to have visited say they have never engaged in such acts.
However, footage of Bolsonaro’s cannibalism comments – first broadcast on his official YouTube channel six years ago – has gone viral on social media and been seized on by Brazil’s opposition as further proof of the president’s depravity.
“Bolsonaro has revealed that he would eat human flesh,” a television advert produced by Bolsonaro’s leftist rival, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, declared on Friday after the remarks were unearthed.
Lula nearly beat Bolsonaro in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election last Sunday and hopes to finish the job when 156 million Brazilians vote in a second-round showdown between the two men on 30 October.
In its efforts to re-elect Lula, Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, his campaign has dug deep into Bolsonaro’s extensive back catalogue of callous and inflammatory pronouncements.
One recent Lula advert shows Bolsonaro shoving a female politician and calling her a “bitch”. In another scene the rightwinger mocks Covid victims and pretends to be gasping for air.
But Friday’s campaign ad was perhaps the most shocking to date.
Bolsonaro’s communications minister, Fábio Faria, called Lula’s advert “fake news” and claimed the comments had been distorted. Bolsonaro’s lawyers demanded electoral authorities ban the ad.
An analysis of the full 76-minute interview with the New York Times journalist Simon Romero leaves little doubt about the nature of Bolsonaro’s remarks.
After describing the destitution he witnessed during a visit to Haiti, Bolsonaro moves from discussing “unhygienic” Haitian women offering sex to making claims about cannibalism allegedly being perpetrated in the Amazon’s Yanomami territory.
“There was this time I was in Surucuru … and an Indian had died and they were cooking him. They cook Indians. It’s their culture,” Bolsonaro claims to the correspondent’s apparent befuddlement.
“Their bodies?” the journalist replies.
“Their bodies,” Bolsonaro confirms.
“But not to eat?” the journalist asks.
“Yes, to eat,” answers Bolsonaro, then an obscure congressman. “They cook it for two or three days and then eat it with banana. I wanted to see an Indian being cooked but the guy said if you go, you have to eat it. ‘I’ll eat it,’ I said. But no one else in my group wanted to go … so I didn’t go. But I’d eat an Indian, no problem at all. It’s their culture.”
Yanomami leaders and anthropologists denounced Bolsonaro’s “delirious” and prejudiced claims. “My people aren’t cannibals … This doesn’t exist nor has it ever existed, not even among our ancestors,” the Yanomami activist Júnior Yanomami told the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.
“Bolsonaro is a compulsive liar,” tweeted Sônia Guajajara, an Indigenous leader who has just been elected to congress.
Lula denied spreading misinformation. “I saw the footage … It’s no invention, we’re simply letting people know what our opponent is like,” he told supporters, claiming foreigners were shunning Brazil “for fear of the cannibal”.
On Saturday a preliminary ruling from an electoral judge ordered Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) to withdraw an advert that risked damaging Bolsonaro’s reputation and affecting “the integrity of the electoral process”. The judge argued that Bolsonaro’s remarks “referred to a specific experience in an Indigenous community, lived according to the values and morality existing in this society”.
The decision appeared to close the stable door after the horse had bolted. By Sunday, social media was awash with mentions of “Cannibal Bolsonaro” and memes likening the president to Hannibal Lecter and the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The footage of Bolsonaro’s declaration had been seen millions of times.

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