President-elect claimed the honor six years ago, but did not receive any answer from the Army; now, after elected, he will receive the award
An act of bravery by the then-lieutenant Jair Bolsonaro which happened in 1978, when he was an instructor in a military unit in Rio de Janeiro, will be acknowledged on Wednesday (5) by the Army’s High Command. The president-elect will receive, in Brasília, the Medalha do Pacificador com Palma (“Pacifier Medal with a Palm”) honor, after saving soldier Celso Moraes Luiz, called by his colleagues and Bolsonaro himself “Negão Celso”, from drowning.
The medal is only given to members of the military and civilians who distinguished themselves, “risking their lives”, for acts of “proven abnegation, courage, and bravery”, after a military police inquiry or investigation. In other words, there must be evidence that the fact truly happened.
The medal-worthy episode happened when Bolsonaro was an instructor in the 2nd Mortar Battery of the 21st Artillery Campaign Group in Rio de Janeiro. Soldiers were subjected to an exercise called “falsa baiana” (“fake Bahia woman”), which consisted of them crossing a 2.5-meter deep lagoon over a steel cable using their hands and feet. A sergeant kept rocking the cable, increasing the level of difficulty.
Usually, according to Bolsonaro’s testimony in his biography, “Mito ou Verdade” (“Myth or Truth”), written by his son, Flávio Bolsonaro, soldiers who fell either swam or were rescued by a small boat. But that didn’t happen to the soldier identified in the book as “Negão Celso”.
The episode in which the colleague was saved by the president-elect is described like this in the book:
“Something drew Bolsonaro’s attention, who anticipated some kind of problem. He immediately unbuttoned his military coat, took off his boots, and became alert in case something abnormal happened. […] And it did. Suddenly, Negão Celso fell into the muddy water, in the middle of the dark and sludgy lagoon. He sank like a hammer and stayed there, making it impossible for the small boat to be of any help. Quickly, Bolsonaro took off his coat and boots and, in a matter of seconds, dove into the water to rescue him.”
The saga continues. Bolsonaro couldn’t find him on his first dive. He came back to the surface, inhaled some more air, and went down for a new attempt. This time, he was successful.
“With a lot of effort, he managed to bring him back to the surface. But, given the despair which had taken hold of Celso, he ended up pulling Bolsonaro down, and both ended up sinking. An actual struggle between them took place underwater, but Bolsonaro managed to place him in a good position, crawling with him on his arms through the muddy bottom of the lagoon for a few meters until they reached the margin, and was able to keep him alive.
Later, in the encampment, some colleagues shouted: “Bolsonaro, our hero.” When he realized what was going on, he heard from another lieutenant: “Thank God he didn’t need mouth to mouth resuscitation.”
According to the book, all these facts have been documented by the Army. Bolsonaro claimed about six years ago the Pacificador com Palma medal but never received any answers.
Now, president-elect, the High Command generals recognized the “courageous and brave” actions of the then-lieutenant Bolsonaro.
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O então soldado Celso Moraes era conhecido como “Negão Celso”; em discurso, o presidente eleito disse que salvá-lo é a prova de que não é racista