Rio de Janeiro’s most voted deputy, averse to interviews, says he hasn’t appeared in photos next to the president-elect to dispel accusations of Bolsonaro’s racism: “we have been friends for twenty years”
“I can’t speak right now. I am right next to zero one.” This was the answer of now deputy-elect Hélio Negão (PSL-RJ) to a call from Gazeta do Povo, who was trying to interview him after his performance and the prominent role he gained in the 2018 elections. “Zero one”, as it is well-known, became a sort of pronoun used by those who are closest to president-elect Jair Bolsonaro (also from PSL) to refer to him.
Hélio Negão, as Army lieutenant Hélio Fernando Barbosa Lopes is known, became such a close friend to Bolsonaro that he earned the right to use the captain’s name in his campaign: Hélio Bolsonaro.
With the ballot name ‘Hélio Negão’, the serviceman ran for an office at Nova Iguaçu’s city council two years ago, for PSC. He got 480 votes and was the 161st most voted candidate.
In 2018, running with the name ‘Hélio Bolsonaro’, and already in the same party as his captain, he obtained 345 thousand votes, becoming Rio de Janeiro’s most voted federal deputy.
Since the end of the first round, Hélio began to appear next to then-presidential candidate all the time. That began during their internet live broadcasts, and is still being done today, even after the election. Last week, for instance, Hélio was behind Bolsonaro during his press conferences in Brasília.
Always motionless, without giving any statements, his behavior made him notorious. He began to be recognized and approached by many supporters of the president in the National Congress, who would request to take pictures next to him. Usually humorous with people who approach him, the deputy-elect avoids journalists; he doesn’t like to give interviews, and always seems to be in a hurry.
Approached by the Gazeta do Povo news team in one of the Chamber’s hallways, Hélio agreed to talk – but the conversation lasted a minute and a half.
Rio’s most voted deputy reacts to comments made in social media that he was placed next to Bolsonaro to “soften” the racist label which has been placed on the president-elect. Hélio says they have been friends for over twenty years, “which makes them brothers.”
“Actually, we have been friends for over twenty years. Jair Messias Bolsonaro often comes into my house, and I go to his. I consider him as a brother, despite the difference of our colors. He is white, I am black. We are equal, because I am daltonic. I see no difference between colors. If God doesn’t see it, why should I? I say it is an honor and a satisfaction to bear the name of such a good person, who does no harm to anyone and treats everyone in the same way,” said Hélio.
He refutes the criticism that he appeared in pictures next to Bolsonaro after a request by the captain. “It was not under his request, no. Absolutely not.”
Trips with Bolsonaro
Hélio gained the privilege of traveling next to the president-elect during his trips in the government transition, from Rio to Brasília. Their proximity has sparked jealousy among some of Bolsonaro’s closest associates, especially members of parliament, who are trying to attach themselves to the image of the president and have complained of being unable to gain access to the future occupant of the Planalto Palace.
“I understand the point of view of other people, but he is my friend. And it is a 20-year-old friendship, not a 4 or 5-year-old one. He was my friend at the Army. He is a captain, I am a sublieutenant. What matters is that we will make Brazil fair for everybody.”
When asked about what projects and ideas he plans on defending in the National Congress, Hélio Bolsonaro preferred to answer by praising Bolsonaro.
“I have nothing but gratitude for the voters who believed in Jair Bolsonaro as a president, and for everyone at PSL. We are there to make a more equal and united country. With no class differences, for blacks and whites, heterosexual and homosexual people, rich and poor. With more jobs, health and a correct education, with no gender ideology,” answered the deputy-elect, repeating arguments made by his friend, the captain, which were often used by the then-presidential candidate throughout his campaign.
READ IT IN PORTUGUESE:
Deputado mais votado do Rio e arredio a entrevistas diz que não posa ao lado do presidente eleito para amenizar acusação de racista: “somos amigos há vinte anos”