Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of ex-president Bolsonaro

RIO DE JANEIRO — Conservative Brazilians heaped praise Sunday on Elon Musk at a rally in support of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro, whose legal troubles are mounting in tandem with the billionaire entrepreneur’s feud with the South American nation’s Supreme Court.

“Brazil Thanks Elon Musk,” read one giant sign in English at the rally alongside Copacabana beach in the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of die-hard supporters of Bolsonaro attended.

Musk, a self-declared free speech absolutist, is a target in an ongoing investigation over the dissemination of fake news by supporters of Bolsonaro. Musk said the social platform X wouldn’t comply with a high court justice’s order to remove certain accounts accused of spreading disinformation.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who took over Twitter — now X — in late 2022, accused Justice Alexandre de Moraes of suppressing free speech and violating Brazil’s constitution. He noted on X that users could seek to bypass any shutdown of the social media platform by using VPNs, or virtual private networks.

That prompted de Moraes to include Musk in an ongoing investigation into so-called digital militias and open a new investigation into obstruction, incitement and criminal conspiracy.

Several speakers lauded Musk at Sunday’s rally.

“What you see here are people who love liberty, who will not give up and will not kneel down to dictators, people who are willing to give their lives for freedom,” said Gustavo Gayer, a pro-Bolsonaro congressman.

For his part, the former president lauded Musk for demonstrating “courage” in the face of what he called censorship by de Moraes.

“He is the man who really preserves true freedom for all of us,” said Bolsonaro, who is himself under investigation for a plethora of crimes ranging from aiding an effort to overturn the 2022 election results and plotting a coup against his leftist successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazil is an important market for social media companies. About 40 million Brazilians, or about 18% of the population, access X at least once per month, according to the market research group Emarketer.

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