SAO PAULO – A leading candidate in Brazil's presidential election said police should be given license to kill criminals and those who do should be given medals not face prosecution.
Right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro said in an interview Tuesday night that he would "leave good people out of range of the shooting" and go at criminals full steam.
"This kind of people (criminals), you cannot treat them as if they were normal human beings, ok? We can't let policemen keep dying at the hands of those guys," Bolsonaro said on TV Globo's main nightly news program. ""If he kills 10, 15 or 20 with 10 or 30 bullets each, he needs to get a medal and not be prosecuted."
Bolsonaro is polling second ahead of Brazil's October presidential election, with jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the lead. But da Silva is likely to be barred from running by electoral authorities for a corruption conviction.
Bolsonaro has a history of controversial comments. He has defended Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship and made comments opponents have called homophobic and racist.
Political analysts say his get-tough-on-criminals rhetoric appeals to many Brazilians weary of rampant crime but could backfire.
"His adversaries might use that quote saying he will kill people using many bullets. He is saying you can fight violence with more violence, and average Brazilians don't agree with that," said political science writer Alberto Almeida.
Human rights groups say police killings of suspects in Brazil are already common.
Earlier this month a report showed a record 63,880 people were slain in Brazil last year. Brazil has long been the world leader in overall homicide numbers, and its homicide rate is also one of the highest.
The TV Globo interviews are among the main drivers of Brazil's election, with all major candidates seeing them as an opportunity to reach a national viewership.