Brazil’s Bolsonaro accused of meddling in Rio federal police

SAO PAULO (AP) — President Jair Bolsonaro was in a stir again Tuesday after Brazil’s former justice minister reportedly accused him of trying to personally pick the head of federal police operations in Rio de Janeiro, where the far-right leader has a home and two of his sons are politicians.

TV Globo and mainstream Brazilian newspapers reported that former Justice Minister Sérgio Moro told investigators that Bolsonaro pressured him in March to accept a political appointee to head the country’s federal police office in Rio.

The president’s sons, Sen. Flávio Bolsonaro and city council member Carlos Bolsonaro, are under investigation by Rio state prosecutors and police. The president said Tuesday that neither he nor those two sons are subjects of federal police investigations.

Moro, who shot to fame as the judge who oversaw the mammoth Car Wash corruption investigation that convicted dozens of politicians and business executives, is seen as a hero by many Brazilians and was publicly granted free rein to operate in the Bolsonaro administration.

He resigned April 24 after Bolsonaro fired the head of the federal police without consulting him.

On Tuesday, the president confirmed that the head of federal police operations in Rio was leaving that post, but said the officer was being promoted.

“I have nothing against the superintendent of Rio de Janeiro, and I don’t interfere in the federal police, and he’s being invited to be an executive director,” Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital, Brasilia.

The embattled Brazilian leader also accused Moro of violating national security law by allegedly giving journalists the content of their conversations.

According to the leaked summary of Moro’s deposition in the southern city of Curitiba, the former minister said Bolsonaro sent him “more or less” the following message in a text message: “You have 27 superintendencies (of the federal police). I just want one, the one in Rio de Janeiro.” The reports did not show printed images of that exchange.

Bolsonaro’s prosecutor-general requested an investigation into the allegations of presidential interference that Moro made when he resigned, which a Supreme Court justice granted. Another justice nullified Bolsonaro’s first choice for the federal police directorship amid reports of a longstanding close relationship.

Brazil’s top court has authorized federal police and prosecutors to interview Cabinet ministers in the Bolsonaro administration about Moro’s accusations.

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