Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has been hospitalised after being struck down by a bad case of the hiccups, which has lasted more than 10 days.
The president, 66, was admitted to an army hospital in the capital city of Brasilia for testing at about 4am Wednesday morning, according to Globo.
An initial statement from his office reported he was “feeling well,” but shortly afterwards he was transferred to a São Paulo hospital to undergo tests for an obstructed intestine. He is now on standby for emergency surgery if the hiccups don’t stop.
The self-described “proud homophobe”, who’s previously told Brazilians to stop fearing coronavirus like “a country of f**s”, was pictured lying in a hospital bed with a priest resting a hand on his shoulder.
“God willing, we’ll be back soon. Brazil is ours,” read the caption on his social media channels.
The state of Bolsonaro’s health has been the subject of growing media speculation in recent days as he appeared to struggle with speaking on various occasions.
“I apologise to everyone who is listening to me, because I’ve been hiccuping for five days now,” he said in an interview with Radio Guaiba on 7 July.
Jair Bolsonaro blames hiccups on assassination attempt
In a recent social media broadcast the president said his hiccups started after he underwent dental surgery on 3 June, and blamed it on drugs he had been prescribed at the time.
“I have the hiccups 24 hours a day,” he complained.
But in his latest statement he blamed his health problems on being stabbed in the abdomen while campaigning in 2018, which caused intestinal damage and serious internal bleeding.
Many believe the attack helped propel Bolsonaro to the presidency as less than two months later he won a landslide victory against his left-wing rival Fernando Haddad.
He attempted to channel this same sentiment towards his hiccups, writing on social media: “One more challenge, a consequence of the assassination attempt promoted by a former member of the [left-wing party] PSOL, the left arm of the PT, to prevent the victory of millions of Brazilians who wanted changes for Brazil.
“A cruel attack not only against me, but against our democracy.”
Bolsonaro’s hospital stay comes at a terrible moment in his two-and-a-half-year presidency, with his popularity in freefall amid mounting public anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and failure to secure sufficient vaccines.
More than 535,000 Brazilians have been killed by an illness Bolsonaro trivialised as a “little flu”, claiming he himself was simply too macho to catch it – right before catching it.