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Brazil's Bolsonaro says democracy, freedom up to will of army

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Brazil's far right President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that "democracy and freedom only exist when the armed forces want them to" -- prompting a quick clarification from his vice president.

Former army captain Bolsonaro, 63, has spoken previously of his admiration for Brazil's military dictatorship from 1964-85.

Speaking at a ceremony for Rio de Janeiro's naval fusiliers, Bolsonaro said he has decided to govern "with good Brazilians, who love their homeland, who respect the family, who want to align with countries that share our ideology, those who love democracy and freedom."

But he added: "Democracy and freedom only exist when the armed forces want them to."

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a retired general, felt moved to parse his boss's remark.

"What the president said was that where the armed forces aren't involved in democracy and freedom, those values die," said Mourao.

"That's what's happened in Venezuela... that's what he wanted to say," added Mourao, who has proved a moderating voice in Bolsonaro's government, despite initial fears he was further to the right than the president.

It's not the first controversy sparked by Bolsonaro this week. He came under fire on Wednesday after publishing an obscene carnival video on Twitter showing a man urinating on another's head.

While Bolsonaro said he wanted to demonstrate how the country's carnival had got out of control, some accused him of disrespecting the dignity of his office in posting the 40-second clip.

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