Presidential candidate running mate stirs Brazil with 'whitening of race' quip

Hamilton Mourao, vice presidential candidate of Jair Bolsonaro, casts his vote in Brasilia, Brazil, on Oct 7, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA (AFP) - The running mate of Brazil's far-right presidential election frontrunner on Sunday (Oct 7) stirred outrage after proudly talking about a "whitening of the race" in relation to one of his grandchildren.

Hamilton Mourao, a retired general who will be vice president if the country elects ultra-conservative candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president, made the controversial comment on Saturday (Oct 6) as he arrived at Brasilia airport to a welcome from some family members, according to media reports.

"Let me by, my sons are waiting for me. My grandson is a good-looking boy, just look at him there: a whitening of the race," the 65-year-old was quoted as saying.

The words were interpreted as racist by many on social media. Race is touchy subject in Brazil, which abolished slavery in 1988 and where half of the 210 million strong population is of African descent - though less than 10 per cent identify as black.

The Workers' Party, whose presidential candidate is running a distant second to Bolsonaro according to polls, seized on the controversy.

The "barbarity" the far-right candidates represent "is becoming more and more obvious," tweeted Manuela D'Avila, the running mate to Workers' Party candidate Fernando Haddad.

Mourao, son of a general who had a role in the 1964 coup that brought in two decades of military dictatorship, has made several inflammatory slip-ups on the campaign trail.

In August, he said Brazil had "inherited a culture of privilege from the Iberians (colonial-era Spanish and Portuguese), the laziness of the indigenous people, and the streetwise cunning of the blacks."

He caused indignation again in September when he described single-mother families as "factories for ill-adjusted elements who tend to enter the drug gangs affecting our country."

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